A reflection for Sunday 23rd July 2023 by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25)

How often have we wondered whether something in our garden is a plant or a weed? Worse still is when someone asks us that question and we don’t know the answer. We can try and bluff our way out of it. With any luck the person asking the question will forget what we said. Alternatively, we can be honest and say that we really do not know. Let it continue to grow. In due course things will become clearer.

Down at our allotment there is a patch of ground in which we know that beetroot has been sown. We know what that looks like. There is however something else which is growing which we do not recognise. We have decided to let it grow for a while. We can decide one way or the other what to do. At the end it doesn’t matter.

On the other hand the end of our gospel reminds us solemnly of the importance of growing the Kingdom of God. Of fields being harvested; of the difference between weeds and wheat as well as what will happen.  The mission of the Church as a friend reminded me is to sow seeds; not necessarily to pull out weeds.

Did you notice that it is the slaves who want to uproot the weeds?  They ask the question “Then do you want us to go and gather them up?”.  They would be prepared to put in any amount of back-breaking labour to uproot the weeds, even if it did mean damaging some of the crops at the same time. They seem anxious, indignant - even a little fearful that their master will blame them for what has happened.

But the master’s attitude is very different. He replies “No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them”.  The master’s main concern is to preserve the crop. Separating out good and bad growth can more safely be done when the crop is fully grown. It’s not that he doesn’t mind about the weeds or that he has any intention of pretending that they are anything else; it’s just that he can take the long-term view. There seems to be a tension between those used to small everyday tasks with immediate results and those prepared to patiently wait somewhat longer.

In all our readings there is a sense of longing; of waiting; of hoping for things that have not yet come to fruition.  Our reading from Romans reminds us “that hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience”.

Just as the Master had to wait however infuriatingly for the wheat and the weeds to grow together until they were ready to be harvested, so may we wait patiently for those things which are yet to come and in which we continue to hope.

Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the depths of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed which You planted in me at my making (George Appleton)