Try as I might, I simply could not weed creeping grass from the perennial bed. The grass had grown too thick, shooting rhizome roots into the garden, entangling the roots of iris bulbs, daisies and yarrow. At first, I tried grabbing the grass firmly at ground-level to loosen it before pulling it upward and out of the garden. That didn’t work. The grass broke-off just below ground, leaving grassroots in tact and ready to sprout green anew.
Jesus told an agricultural parable about this very same problem. One night, while everybody was asleep, a farmer’s enemy sowed tares (weeds) among the farmer’s wheat. When the farmer’s servants told him the bad news, they also asked the farmer whether he wanted them to weed the tares out. The farmer, who had undoubtedly lived through many agricultural crises over the years, demurred. Instead, he told them, wait until the harvest and then separate the wheat from the tares.
Mine, however, was a perennial garden whose spring and summer harvest had already past. Idaho snow will soon cover the ground, so I needed to untangle the grass from the perennials now, not later. I have to confess – a quick run to the local hardware store for some Round-up crossed my mind.
Thoughts of Round-up notwithstanding, I started the hard work of digging-up the entire flower bed. First, I marked the boundary by slicing through the grass with my shovel. Second, I dug the shovel under sections of the garden, pulling them out chunk by chunk. Third, taking each chunk, I sifted the soil from all roots to let the soil fall back into the flower bed. Fourth, I untangled the grass roots from the roots of the iris bulbs, daisies and yarrow. And finally, I divided and replanted all plants but the grass. Well – except for the perennials that I discovered near the back of the bed. Their roots were entangled with those of the iris, daisies and yarrow just like the grassroots, so I removed these plants to the nearby beds of their parents.
This project took two days to complete. It was hard work. The Kingdom of God is hard work. The question is, whose hard work is it?
Jesus told his parable as an image of the Kingdom of God. The same Kingdom Jesus referred to in The Lord’s Prayer: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, the timing of these two kingdom hopes appears contradictory. The parable contemplates the eschaton, a future time when evil will be rooted out, the lion will lay down with lamb, and swords will be beat into plowshares. The Lord’s Prayer kingdom contemplates not the eschaton, but the here and now. Bring heaven to earth, today.
So, which is it? Kingdom of God on earth, or Kingdom of God in the by and by?
Regardless of your answer to that question, Jesus so clearly imagined a kingdom-world in which food would be plenty (daily bread), forgiveness might become universal (…as we forgive others …), and evil eradicated. Divide the tares from the wheat now, not tomorrow, Jesus seems to be urging.
And therein lies the irony. We pray to God to accomplish the weeding while God prays to us to accomplish the weeding. Both And.
I have a feeling that most of us Christians understand exactly how hard weeding can be, pulling out entire flower beds to disentangle roots, evil from good. Pulling tares from wheat without destroying the wheat before harvest. Seems like Round-up would be easier. Prove to my enemies (those with whom I disagree) that I am right and they are wrong.
Anyway, by the end of the two days of hard manual labor, I looked over the garden with weak knees and hopeful satisfaction. Not only had I solved the grass entanglement problem, I had refreshed the garden by dividing iris bulbs and daisy and yarrow plants. By next year, these plants will have twice as many blooms as they did this year, and the year after that four times. Such is the stuff of kingdom.