Mark 4: 26-34
Summertime and the livin’ is easy. We are almost there!
Summer preaching is the best! I really love it. There is no pressure to distill any theological significance of Jesus birth and death, no pressure to teach about Christmas, Easter and Pentecost and the hidden meanings we might find in them. Summertime preaching is about Jesus’ life and what he did with it day to day and a chance for us to dream about the agrarian life in the Galilee.
What I also love is that summertime preaching is organic. Jesus often relates his lessons to nature, his parables revolve around farming, fishing, boating and so we can really settle into the reality of Jesus’ existence, his everyday life and the quotidian concerns that he and his friends and family faced.
Now most of us are light years away from living an agrarian lifestyle; most of us don’t farm or fish for our livelihood except for maybe the Smith’s who know all too well of agrarian living.
But at the same time we are not so different from those first century farmers because we share in the same concerns and joys of life. We live, we love, we work for economic sufficiency and we work hard to find meaning for our lives.
So let us listen to this morning’s scripture as if our life depended upon it. From the fourth chapter of Mark…
He (Jesus) also said, ‘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 earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Jesus shares with his disciples’ two parables about seeds and planting. He is never without a story, that’s how Eugene Peterson introduces these passages, I think that is true. Jesus always has a story. Then he attaches a ‘PS’ almost an editorial note that tells us the purpose of parables which ultimately summons the listener to hear the word of God and follow Jesus.
by Carl Dixon
This parable, one has to laugh! What a sense of humor Jesus has! The parable about the mustard seed is laughable really, ‘the kingdom of God is like a scrubby, invasive bush’. That’s what Jesus is saying. Like kudzu growing on a tree, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a bush. In the Galilee a mustard bush was the equivalent to an invasive weed like kudzu or the Persicaria perfoliata that made headlines in the Wilton Bulletin this week!
And, we know that the mustard seed is not the smallest of seeds, what he means is that it is the least of seeds, its insignificant in the botany world. It’s a seed of a weed.
by Richard Cassel
And a bush?? Really? You would think that God could imagine a kingdom that would be a little larger than a bush. It sure doesn’t give you the impression of greatness like the Ezekiel passage that talks about the lofty tops of the cedars that God will lop off and plant. But yet, the mustard bush’s small stature, offers a safe haven and a home for birds of the air. In other words, it does its job. It has a purpose and a function in God’s created world.
You only have to look outside your backyard door to see what God means. I’ve got large and very old trees, and azalea bushes. I’ve got invasive vines, and lush pachysandra. The birds, big and small flit around from tree to bush as they wait their turn at the feeder. Each sort of vegetation is needed and used for the perching purposes. It’s a busy backyard.
Never underestimate the power of God's ability to work through the most unusual and perhaps even insignificant ways. Never underestimate the power of God to work through you. Never undervalue each encounter that you have with someone, it could just mean that person’s life, or yours. You never know when a seed is planted what it will yield.
Rev. Andre Trocme was a protestant pastor in Le Chambon during World War II when the Germans occupied the South of France. The book about his ministry and life, “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed” tells how Trocme lead his congregants to peacefully resist the Germans and give refuge to thousands of Jews who were seeking shelter for their lives. It’s a remarkable and inspiring story. But it didn’t happen overnight.
Over time and through his life example and preaching Trocme built a firm and ethical foundation for the people, it was a foundation rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ to thirst for justice, to be merciful to all and to be pure in heart. He charged them to have moral intentions in all that they do that were unpolluted and to not be tempted by worldly things, to always stay focused on God.
In other words he sowed the seeds of justice and mercy in their hearts and in doing so laid the foundation for Le Chambon to save lives of innocent Jews who would have been sent to the death camps. The good and everyday people of Le Chambon gave shelter to many just like the mustard bush providing shelter for the birds.
A small bush can pack a mighty punch. God has the power to take small things and make them great. You have a place and a function in God’s kingdom. That’s the way God intended it to be and you will be able to effect change.
God works through each and every one of us. Every day is an opportunity for growth, each moment can yield significant outcomes. There is a place in the kingdom for all people because God will use us to the best of our abilities and for God's ultimate purpose.
Each one of us is created wonderfully unique so that the seeds of God’s love and grace can be sown. God will plant the seed of faith within us to grow so that we, in turn, may plant seeds of hope and healing for others.
A small seed sown, one bush grown as shelter for many. That’s how God works to God’s purposes not ours. Be open to the possibilities however small they might seem. One day you just might be giving shelter to the birds of the air.
Anne Frank, once said, “Everyone has inside of [them] a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
You have great potential and with God’s help you will grow into it. That’s a promise.