(I gave this sermon yesterday, Sunday, July 19, 2020. You can see the entire worship service and sermon at www.ststephenlc.org.)
Gottfried Leibniz, a German philosopher and mathematician, and probably someone you have never heard of before, is credited with coining the term theodicy in 1710. What is theodicy? It quite literally means vindication of God. It is the answer to the question of why a good God allows evil to exist.
It’s a problem that humanity has been struggling with for a really long time. How can an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good God be consistent with the existence of evil or suffering in the world? That’s the question.
It’s the question that was asked following the Holocaust. How do you make sense of the purposeful killing of six million Jews along with many more other people? How do you make sense of it? How does such a thing happen if God is good?
We could ask many other questions today. If God is good, then why does racism persist? If God is good, then why hasn’t humanity figured out a way to co-exist without trying to kill one another through wars? If God is good, then why does it seem like the “bad” people get away with so much and are rewarded for it too — exploiting people and natural resources for their own purposes, oppressing people, corruption, unchecked greed, abuse of spouse or children, abuse of power, and more. If God is good, then why do unjust systems exist at all?
There are no nice simple answers for these questions. I wish there were. And that’s just a few of the possible questions that could be asked. I’m sure you could come up with plenty more.
So what do we do with the problem of evil?
In the Gospel today, we hear yet another parable. The parable of the sowing of wheat and weeds. It’s an unsatisfying parable. The farmer sows his seeds and in the middle of the night, an enemy sows weeds. When things start to grow, both wheat and weeds grow together. And then the really unsatisfying part comes — there’s no weeding. Nope. The farmer says let them grow together.
Why does evil exist instead of just being plucked up and thrown away? That’s the question we want to ask — that’s the question the laborers ask the farmer. It seems more righteous or justice oriented.
But Jesus gives us this unsatisfactory answer. We want to pull the weeds out because they don’t deserve to be there in our judgement. But Jesus isn’t telling us…