- Ezekiel 17:22—24
- 2nd Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
- Mark 4:26-34
This week’s focus is on the text from Mark’s Gospel with two parables from Jesus using seed as his illustration for the kingdom of God. Since the application is different for each of the parables, the preacher might decide to only focus on one of them. But depending on time and inclination, both can certainly be dealt with since they share a common focus on seeds.
In the first parable, Jesus talks about the mystery of the plant’s growth process and how the Farmer does not entirely understand the process, yet he or she trusts it and then benefits from it. Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” The Farmer does not know how this process works, works diligently to trust the end result, and ultimately benefits from the harvest.
In like manner, life itself is often a mystery. For instance, this past year, we would be hard-pressed to make sense out of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the anxiety of social unrest, and the stress of economic and political uncertainty. As I read this portion of the parable, I would say that we are much like the Farmer and do not understand hell god might be working through these events and challenging times. We are called upon to trust that God is walking with us through these times, and we pray that God would lead us to use lessons learned to make our world a better place. How can we make the availability of medicines and treatment options available to all people regardless of race or economic status? How can we truly make our justice system fair and equitable for all people? God can only use these events for good when we, as Christians, allow God’s grace to work through us to bring reconciliation and healing to all people. We might not understand the process, but we trust that God will work through us to build up the kingdom of God here on earth.
In the second parable, Jesus talks about the mustard seed and its blessing to the bird population. Here, the tiniest seed, the mustard seed, can grow into a shrub that can give shade and protection to the birds: a place to call home, a place to raise their young in relative safety. Mustard bushes are dense, making them ideal places for small birds to nest in a place where the larger birds of prey cannot get at them. Again, the birds don’t completely understand this process, but they certainly benefit from it. The smallest of seeds can indeed make a big difference.
Small things with time can make a big difference. Think of the advice that we often get as small children that to save even just a few pennies or a dollar a month for life can add up to a significant sum over a lifetime. One summer during my teenage years, I helped an uncle build a 20X20 addition onto his house. When we were laying the foundation with cement blocks, he taught me that you must double and even triple-check to ensure that each corner is set precisely at a 90-degree angle. I asked why you need to be exact, what difference would it make if it was at 91 or 89 degrees, you can’t see that with your eye. Of course, he told me that while you might not see the difference at that corner when you followed that same miscalculation out over 20 feet, you would notice it at the other end, making the rest of the process much more difficult.
Even a seed planted with a simple kind word today can make a huge difference over the course of someone’s life. Affirmations spoken to me as a teenager helped me decide to be a pastor. What if those folks had never shared those affirmations?
Recently, the two hurricanes that caused wind and flood damage in Nicaragua and Honduras wiped out the needed crops of beans and rice that are so critical to feeding families. Thanks to the outpouring of support from Moravians around the world funds were sent to local church leaders so that seeds could be purchased and planted so that they can bring a harvest in just a few months. The picture at the top of this page shows these seeds being distributed in Nicaragua near the Rio Coco. Small gifts are going to make a big difference in the lives of many.
What seeds is your congregation planting? What seeds planted years ago are bearing fruit? How does your congregation’s mission statement sow God’s love and grace in your neighborhood?