Mass hysteria struck Massachusetts from February of 1692 to May of 1693. A few children began to act strangely. People began to denounce others as witches. The fact that one of the so-called witches was part of a family feuding with the family of one of the accusers wasn’t relevant at the time because there were a couple of other people accused who showed obvious signs of witchcraft: homelessness and/or sporadic church attendance. Soon, though, full members of the churches in the towns involved were accused and fear and hysteria reigned throughout the Salem area. During this 15-month period, twenty people were executed. Suspicion and broken relationship spread throughout the cities involved.
The irony of this whole sordid situation is that this area was settled by people seeking to establish a pure, Bible-based society. What they got instead was a society that inflicted a terrible blot on the name of Christians even today. Perhaps the idea of building a pure church is noble. In order to have a pure church, though, you would have to exclude a lot of people. A church that excludes anyone is not a church that honors Jesus Christ. And I’m not just saying that because I would be excluded. Every church has members who are there for other reasons than their love of Jesus Christ. Churches are composed of sinners who are supposed to be saved by God’s grace, but we all know that it doesn’t work that way. Jesus hinted at that in one of His parables. “Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” (Matthew 13:24-25)
As the parable continues, the man’s servants noted the weeds growing among the wheat and offered what seemed to be a logical solution: let’s get rid of the weeds. The owner put the kibosh on that idea because it might disrupt the growth of the wheat. Apparently, the wheat and the weeds were intermingled in the field. There’s an obvious application for the church here. We can’t root out all the heretics. Oh, people have tried. We’ve had some great wars in the church in times past as people focused on the heresy of the other guys – while the other guys accused the first guys of heresy. We have a lot of denominations because so many of you that don’t belong to my denomination are willing to accept heresy. (That was a joke, btw)
Jesus proposed another solution. Wait for the harvest. Wait for God to take care of the heretics and the false followers. What this parable doesn’t do is deal with the life changing effect of God working on people. Weeds won’t turn into wheat, but heretics and false followers can turn into true followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus talked about sowing good seed. In this case, the sower was the Son of Man and the good seeds are the people of the Kingdom. Our job is to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the weeds in this world: the people of the evil one. When we do that, we open the doors for the Holy Spirit to work His transforming power in the lives of those who are in thrall to the evil one. When the Holy Spirit works, people’s lives change. The angels in heaven rejoice when weeds become wheat. How sad it is when rather than working with God to bring transformation, we work to exclude others because they’re wrong. There is no such thing as a perfect church, but if there were, neither you nor I would be able to get in. So, as the followers of Christ, as the wheat in this world, let’s work to transform our world, one weed at a time, and share the love and mercy of Jesus Christ with those around us.
Oh Lord, there are so many people out there who don’t know You. There are so many people who need to experience Your love and mercy. Use me as an example of one whose life has been changed by You.