The setting is Jacob Huber’s Tavern just north of today’s Lititz, Pennsylvania. It’s the evening of December 2nd all the way back in 1742. Local farmers are gathered to hear Count Nicolaus von Zinzindorf from Germany speak. (Look back at the last blog for background on him). He is here to preach, but also to share his vision of beginning a Christian settlement in this area of Pennsylvania. His thinking about church planting is different than that of the 21st century, but nonetheless insightful for today. Having read others of his sermons, here’s what I would think he said to communicate his vision:
Brothers, I’m so glad you are here and have responded to the invitation to be here. This is a very important evening for you.
The Gospel reading is from Matthew 13:24-30
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Let me get straight to the point. Here we have a good explanation of the Gospel passage and we cannot avoid the explanation because our Savior himself explains it, starting in verse 36 and following.
Now remember this is not the soils parable in Luke 8:4-15, where we sow the seed which is the word of God and the soils are the different degrees of openness of people’s hearts. No, this is very different. Jesus says the Son of Man sows the seed in the world, not men’s hearts, and the seeds are people. And weeds, weeds are not bad thoughts or false teaching, but they are people, too. However they are not sown by the Son of Man, but by the devil, himself. So in the fields both the seed of the Savior and Satan’s weeds grow up together. As farmers, you know, you could try to dig out the weeds, but if you do you can’t help but also pull up the wheat that you are trying to grow. The Son of Man says to wait until the final harvest at the end of time to get rid of the weeds.
You know the weeds, don’t you? They are those who try to ruin what the Savior sows, they try to destroy the plants, in other words they are poised to attack Christians. They are against everything the awakened ones stand for. They not only stand for evil, but they try to stop you, by ridicule or sin or whatever. Be aware of who those people are. They can be unbelievers, or they may be right from your church whether Lutheran, Mennonite, Moravian or any of the other good churches in this land.
If you have been awakened and live out of the salvation that Christ gave then you are the seeds planted out in the wilderness to grow out here. Don’t be discouraged by the weeds, but grow and flourish for there is much land to fill. There are many people to be reached; your German neighbors and friends and the Indians who are scattered not far from your farms.
But if you remain all alone so far from each other, you will have a more difficult time. The weeds can easily overtake you. There’s more protection if you gather with each other, believers living together for Christ. That’s why our dear Lord has commissioned me to issue an invitation to you, to not only be a church together, but be a community together living out the faith and reaching out to others. I have learned this lesson: there can be no Christianity without community.
I have had the blessing of seeing Christian settlements built over in Germany at my beloved Herrnhut and not far from here, up in Bethlehem here in Penn’s Woods. And the Savior longs to do the same thing here in this area. What do you think? Will you be part of this and grow up into the fruit that he wants?*
Zinzindorf was a seed that night that brought great growth. As a result of his time, a Christian settlement was begun that was known as “Litiz”, today’s Lititz. A strong church was built there as well as the community that resulted in great strengthening of the believers in their faith and their life. It was an impact that continued for 100 years and still affects believers today especially in the Moravian Church. Zinzindorf had a large vision that we could adapt and use. How could we use the idea of building Christian communities today?
* Adapted from a sermon by Zinzindorf at a Lutheran Church in Philadelphia in February, 1742 from the book, Zinzindorf’s Pennsylvania Journey, c/o 2001, Moravian Church of North America.