PostScript: Watching the weeds
A reflection on living in a world that, right now, seems to have more weeds than wheat (Matthew 13.24-30,36-43).
It’s hard not to feel like we are lost in a forest of bad news at the moment. Just one glance at the headlines and we are propelled into the chaos of our new Covid-19 world order: ongoing loss and sadness for many, many families; the possibility of a coronavirus resurgence in the winter; confusion about masks; recession; and the impending disaster of the virus rampaging through already war-torn countries. And that’s all before you get to the non-Covid articles on the American election, the underside of British gymnastics, and the murky world of Jeffery Epstein and his associates – to name just a few of the unsettling, sad, and bad stories we’ve been confronted with just today. It feels like goodness and light is being smothered by something much darker, or to use the imagery in Matthew’s parable, it’s as if someone has come into a field of wheat and sowed weeds everywhere. A field turned into a muddle, healthy wheat lost in a sea of wild, uncontrollable weeds.
It goes without saying that all of the news stories mentioned above are very important and must be reported on. We need to know what’s happening in our world. We need a Press that finds out, explains and critiques. But trying to process all that is happening, trying to reach for something other than despair, trying to work out how to respond to the weeds that are choking the world is difficult to say the least.
But, perhaps the rest of Matthew’s story about the weedy wheat field communicates a deeper truth about the current sea of bad news. On viewing the state of his field, the farmer avoids a hasty reaction. He doesn’t tear into the field ripping up the weeds desperately looking for wheat. He recognises that the wheat and the weeds have to coexist for a while. He can see that his field is altered, but it will need to remain in its altered state until the harvest. Presumably, the farmer realises he will need to tend the wheat and the weeds for a while.
It’s tempting for us to look for good news stories at the moment in order to somehow cover up the bad, to try to look only at the wheat, to try not to see the weeds at all. It’s equally problematic to fail to see any wheat and feel overwhelmed by the wild, uncontrollable weeds. But, like the farmer, maybe we need to respond by looking carefully at the whole field, viewing all of the weeds, trying to spot the still growing wheat while praying passionately for the eventual harvest.
- together about the weeds and wheat you can see at the moment.
- about how you feel about living with both wheat and weeds.
- If you have a garden, go outside and pull up as many weeds as you can find. Alternatively, find a patch of earth in a park, playground or public field and hunt out a few weeds. Take the weeds home/bring them into the house and lay them on a table. Decide together which ‘weedy’ issues you want to pray about and as you pray look at and handle the weeds.
- Find out what the three most common weeds are. Try learning their names and drawing them. Stick one of your drawings up somewhere in the house and each time you pass your picture pray for a ‘weedy’ issue affecting the world.
- Write the word WHEAT down the side of a sheet of paper and together try to think of things that bring hope into the world that begin with each letter in the word WHEAT. For example: Workers in the NHS.
- Find a pack of playing cards, spread them out face down on a table. Let red cards represent ‘weeds’ and black cards ‘wheat’. Take it in turns to turn over a card. Depending on the colour discuss something you regard as either a ‘wheat’ or a ‘weed’. After each discussion pray this prayer: ‘Lord God, help us to trust you with the harvest.’
Fiona Dorman is Bristol Cathedral schools liaison officer and an education consultant.
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