As we celebrate this Fourth of July, the day of our national Independence, I’d like to reflect on the great and ever-resonant parable from Matthew 13:24-30. Just as in the lives of our forebears, our lives, too, are not a set of perfect Disney tales with stark and clear boundaries between good and evil. Reality paints a much more complex picture where good and evil, the holy and unholy, often intermingle, making discernment an essential divine gift and responsibility.
Now, it would be all too easy to attribute this blend of light and dark to the fall of humanity, to label it as a mere symptom of our broken world, not as part of the original divine blueprint. Yet, even in the pristine Garden of Eden, mankind was confronted with a choice – a choice between right and wrong, good and bad. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given the freedom to discern, to choose.
This brings us to the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13. In the telling of this parable, Jesus acknowledges the reality of our world, where good and bad, holy and unholy, are intricately woven together and often hard to distinguish and separate. Yet, it also reminds us that we have been blessed with the divine gift of discernment, the freedom to choose, just as Adam and Eve were. We celebrate this freedom on July 4th as a nation, but we must also celebrate it as children of God, empowered to discern between the wheat and the weeds in our lives.
Yet, this parable holds a deeper truth. We are not only called to simply discern, to separate the wheat from the weeds, but also to work alongside God as His children of light. This responsibility extends far beyond a mere recognition of good and evil. It calls us not to simply pull the weeds out, but to engage with the darkness and despair of our world with patience and hope, labor with love to transform darkness into light, despair into hope, and brokenness into healing.
In the garden of our lives, we are asked to make daily choices, to discern the wheat from the weeds. And on this Fourth of July, as we celebrate our Independence, let us also celebrate our divine freedom to choose and make a difference in this world. This freedom is not just about autonomy; it is about our unique roles as co-workers with God, participating in the holy task of mending and transforming our world.
As we light our fireworks tonight, let them not only be a reminder of our national independence, but also a symbol of our divine calling to light up the world, to transform every form of darkness, hopelessness, and injustice into holiness, hope, and joy. Amen.