After the rains of this past week the plants in our yard are happy. All kinds of new life is popping out of the soil. But, as Jesus teaches in his parable, it’s not always easy to know which are good plants and which are weeds. Let them grow together, he says, and at harvest time you can take out the weeds.
Last week’s gospel reading also was about seeds in the field. Through the story of the sower and the seed we find that the world is not always as simple as good soil and bad soil, good people and bad people. We find in each of us all types of soil.
Things are not always what they seem. This is what today’s first reading teaches. Is Jacob good or bad? How to tell? The truth is that Jacob is the perfect example of wheat and weeds growing together. He is a man of faith but he has deceived his father and manipulated his brother Esau into giving up his inheritance. Now he’s running for his life, his brother in hot pursuit. Exhausted, he lies down to sleep.
While he sleeps he has a dream in which God assures him that God is with him. He awakens and exclaims, Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it.
Where in your life do you feel afraid? In what ways do you feel that circumstances are out of your control? Or, is there some way in which you feel like you’re helpless and all alone?
When Jacob lay down to sleep he chose a rock for his pillow. Doesn’t sound too comfortable to me.
And yet, when Jacob awakens he has a completely different perspective. Nothing in his life had changed. The hard ground where he was sleeping was still the hard ground. The rock was still his pillow. He was still isolated from his family, still running for his life. And yet, upon awakening Jacob says, Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it. Jacob is filled with fear, but not just fear—awe and gratitude, too! This is none other than the house of God, he says, and this is the gate of heaven.
Maybe this is part of what Jesus is teaching in the lesson of the wheat and the weeds. It’s too easy to focus on the weeds—in other words, what’s wrong in our lives. We become distracted and weighed down by irritating people, or difficult circumstances, whether it’s because of something we’ve done or something out of our control. And, as Jesus says, by paying too much attention to what’s wrong in our lives we can become blind to what’s good. We can miss out on gratitude, wonder, and awe.
The Bible is full of stories that involve sleep, dreams, and awakening. Notice that Jacob is not in church when he proclaims, This is the house of God. He’s not having some mountaintop experience when he says, This is the gate of heaven. No, it’s in ordinary—even difficult—circumstances that Jacob is able to see the deeper reality of his existence. May we—God’s own people–wherever our life journey takes us, awaken to the grace, love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. May we join Jacob in exclaiming, Surely the Lord is in this place—and we did not know it.