I recently wrote a skit about two women reading the parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13); I wrote it for a very specific context- that of a women's shelter. Here two women-- one a resident of the shelter and one a leader of the shelter program-- are reading it together and discussing its impact on them personally. Watch a video of the skit here (note- please preview this before showing in a group setting due to some of the language and visual content)
Here, the worlds of a well-to-do Christian woman and another troubled, more impoverished woman collide with the world of Jesus' first-century Palestine. The first woman has never been disturbed by this parable, but the second woman is deeply troubled upon first hearing it. She explains her background and why she has never been given a reason not to believe that she's the "weed" or the "bad seed"--we know/can guess from her story, her language, and the way she presents her body that she has known a lot of cruelty in her life so far.
Have you ever felt like you were (or told you were) a "bad seed" or inherently bad?
Have you ever assumed someone (or a group of "someones") was just plain bad to the core? If so, did you keep that opinion or find out you were wrong? What did you base your information on?
It's no secret that this is a very difficult parable to understand. Have you ever thought about the identity of the wheat and the weeds? Who's who?
What's Jesus' advice about what should be done with the weeds before the harvest? What is the consequence to those who are the weeds before and after the harvest?
Some people think that there are folks (if that is who the weeds are) who are doomed to be consumed in fire. Are you content with this understanding of the parable? Why or why not?
Is being a weed the same as being a sinner? (Note: sinners can repent, and it appears that the weeds cannot).
Who is the sower and who is the harvester--is it one person, and is it Jesus?
Why would it be what God wanted for the wheat and the weeds to grow together until the harvest?
If we figured out who the wheat and the weeds are, how could we let them grow together and let God do the harvesting? CAN we even find out for sure who they each are?
By now, you're probably pretty thoroughly frustrated with this parable and either its ambiguity or all the irritating questions it provokes. If you find that after discussion or meditation upon it you remain frustrated, don't be afraid to live with the questions and to pray for peace. It is good to raise questions and to be in conversation with each other and with God about them. Remember what you know about God for sure: grace, forgiveness, salvation, presence. . .and so much more.
For the women who inspired this skit, I continue to pray. They are real--not only do they have many questions and much frustration and hurt just like so many of the rest of us, but there are too many that literally resemble the second woman in her circumstances. They have been most unfortunate in the events that have plagued them in their lives and the lives of those close to them (mental illness, substance abuse, physical/verbal abuse, crippling poverty), but that doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit is not present and actively at work among them and through them. I think particularly of the women at the Compassion Care Center in Annapolis, MD through the Lutheran Mission Society, among whom I had the privilege of working. They showed me Christ's presence just as much as I may have shown it to them, and when I wrestle with what society says a "bad seed" looks like, I think of the Holy Spirit working through them and transforming them just as much as anyone else is changed through God's healing presence.
(To find out more about the Lutheran Mission Society's Compassion Care program in Annapolis, visit the website of the Lutheran Mission Society).