Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sermon - Pentecost 2 - Mark 4:26-34
Sermon – Pentecost 2
June 14, 2009
What young schoolchild doesn't do that universal project – you know the one, where you plant a seed in a little container, water it, put it on the classroom windowsill, and by the end of the school year it's sprouted and grown. What a lesson in how things work, and in patience and in how wonderful God has made this creation.
It's also a lesson about the kingdom of God. Jesus uses seeds again to tell us what the kingdom is like. And there's always something to learn from Jesus' teaching. Let's examine these two seed parables from Mark, and think on the kingdom of God as Jesus explains it.
The first parable is about patience and trust. The farmer learns the same lesson the schoolchild does – after you plant and water, there isn't much to do but wait. I planted my own garden several weeks ago, and though I diligently check its progress daily, it's not growing anywhere fast. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes trust in knowing that the combination of seed and soil and sun and water will produce results. But when? And how much?
In the kingdom of God, it's the same. God's word is cast onto the soil – and it produces effects. The church does the casting, the planting of the word – but we don't know why or how it works. We simply share what we have received, and watch its effects grow. We don't understand it, but we trust God to make it happen.
Through the Gospel, we come to believe in Jesus Christ. “Faith comes by hearing”. Through the Gospel, the Spirit calls us to faith in Christ. He plants the seed in our heart, and nurtures it to life. And it grows. When we hear the message of Christ crucified for sinners, he awakens and enlivens our faith. When we receive the Gospel in physical form – bread and wine that is his Body and Blood – he nurtures the seed growing within us.
And sometimes (quite often) we don't even see the growth happening. With an earthly seed the change is too gradual to watch it happen. But with the seed of his teaching, and the working of his Spirit, sometimes it's even harder to see, maybe even impossible.
We can't hurry it along, either. God's timetable is his own. There is no spiritual Miracle-grow. But as the seed gives life, so does the Gospel. And we trust in God's power to bring about that growth, in his time, in his way. This is frustrating for us, as we see friends and family members who aren't where we'd like them to be. We see our children straying from church. We see husbands who sleep in or stay home while mom brings the kids to church. We pray for people that God would touch their hearts, make them see – help them believe or believe more deeply. And we don't see it.
Or, we look in the mirror. And we see the same old sinner that we always wake up to. Same old warts and blemishes. We'd like to be someone else. Someone more Christ-like. But sin breathes down our neck. It's a constant companion. Why can't we grow, grow more, grow more Christ-like? But God promises, “he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We don't see it, but we believe it. The harvest will come.
In another parable Jesus compares the resurrection to planting a seed (which appears dead and is literally buried). And yet that seed sprouts and grows at the proper time. The seed of God's word is planted in us, and perhaps we don't see any growth. Perhaps we even die. But we trust that seed will produce a harvest, even if it's only seen fully in our resurrection to glory – at the harvest.
And so we are patient through all the ups and downs of life, patiently waiting for God to fulfill all his promises to us in Christ. Patiently waiting for his good gifts, for the fulfillment of his plan, and for him to take us home to himself. Trusting that the seed will grow until the harvest.
The other seed parable we read today, about the mustard seed, further explains this mysterious gift of faith. Here the reminder – the small things of God can have great and wonderful effects. Just as the mustard seed, one of the tiniest of seeds, becomes a grand shrub where even birds can nest – so does the word of God produce a faith in us that has far-reaching effects.
This is a promise. It's not a command. If we were to sit about measuring and pondering our good works and the effects of our faith on others.... if we compare how much fruit we bear with the next guy, if we count and tally, focusing on ourselves and our accomplishments, we will always fall short.
But trusting in his word, we know our faith is not in vain. Our work is not for nothing. What seems small to the eye, may have effects we'll never know.
For instance, these simple words - “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. A short sentence. A little water with it. But that small seed grows to a lifetime of blessings, and an eternity of fullness.
Thank God for the seeds he plants in us and through us. Thank God for the blessings he brings through his word of Law and Gospel – which grows in hearts and renews spirits and minds. Which gives life – even when you can't see it. Which has an effect for the good of those who love him. God grant us the faith and patience to believe it. Amen.