Sermon, June 20, 2021, Pentecost 4
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Pastor Jacobson Pentecost 4 Sermon June 20, 2021 Mark 4:26-34
26He said, “The kingdom of God is like this: A man scatters seed on the ground, 27and while he sleeps and rises, night and day, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28The ground produces fruit on its own: first the blade, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29When the crop is ready, he swings the sickle without delay, because the harvest has come.” 30Then he said, “To what should we compare the kingdom of God? Or with what parable may we picture it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which when sown on the ground is one of the smallest of all the seeds planted in the ground. 32Yet when it is planted, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches so that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.” 33With many similar parables he continued to speak the word to them, as much as they were able to hear. 34He did not speak to them without a parable. But when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.
LOOK AT THE KINGDOM THROUGH GOD’S EYES
How would you envision the kingdom of God? Pearly gates? A white-robed army of saints and angels singing, “Alleluia!”? Christ the King in the middle, sitting on his throne? This description is how the Apostle John describes the kingdom of God in heaven in his Revelation. This kingdom of glory looks amazing, but Jesus in the Gospel appointed for today describes the kingdom of God that is on earth and this kingdom of God, not a kingdom of glory, but a kingdom of grace, looks like a farm.
- We see the planting, but God sees the harvest.
Farmers don’t wear white, and if farmers do wear white, their white clothes won’t stay white for long. There are many sounds on a farm. You know what the cows and the roosters say. The cow says, “Mooo,” and the rooster says, “Cock-a-doodle-do.” They don’t sing, “Alleluia!” There’s also a distinctive smell on the farm, and we trust that smell is not also in heaven. Farming has changed over the last 2,000 years, but the essence of farming is still the same as Jesus describes it in his parable. 26He said, “The kingdom of God is like this: A man scatters seed on the ground.”
The man in this parable or story is Jesus. The seed is God’s Word, namely the gospel or Good News of Jesus Christ. The ground is the human heart. The farm is how Jesus describes his preaching and teaching ministry. This farming description, then, would also apply to our preaching and teaching ministry. Pretty simple stuff, a 3-step process: One person has the gospel message. That persons shares the gospel message with another person. The gospel message is received by that person who hears it.
We see this planting. We see this planting right now as I preach this sermon. We see this planting as the Pastors and Elders hand communicants the four elements of Holy Communion, the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and the wine. We see this planting when we have a baptism, and today in the 8:00 service we have a baptism.
Jesus continues, “27and while he (the farmer) sleeps and rises, night and day, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. My church office is very close to our preschool. And through the years I’ve seen about 100 styrofoam cups with a handful of dirt and a seed in each one. It’s a great lesson on agriculture because every one of those little farmers wonder what’s taking so long and whether or not they will ever see that seed sprout and grow. In between the planting and the sprouting there can be doubt. Is it working? Is the seed going to sprout and grow or not?
Preschool farmers aren’t the only ones who wonder about their planting. Gospel sharers wonder, too. You see the Baptism planting, but you don’t see how this baby is now a Christian when just seconds earlier the baby was an unbeliever. You see the Holy Communion planting, but you don’t see how you, the communicants, are more energized to produce new fruits of faith in their lives. You see the preaching and the teaching, but at times wonder what will come of it? And as you wonder these things the temptation exists to quit planning seeds, to stop sharing the gospel. Is bringing my child to church or having a home devotion with them worth it, when the little monster doesn’t seem to hear a word that is said? Is talking to my friends about my faith ever going to amount to anything more than ridicule or indifference?
While we wonder if the kingdom of God is working, the kingdom of God is working. Jesus teaches, 28The ground produces fruit on its own: first the blade, then the head, then the full grain in the head. God sees the fruit of faith. Sometimes we see the fruit of faith, and when you do see the fruit of faith, treasure it. Treasure it when the mouth of babes say, “Jesus loves me,” or, “Jesus died for our sins.” Treasure it when teenagers and young adults accept responsibility in the ministry of the church. Treasure it when life-long unbelievers are converted and when wayward Christians see the error of their way and return. Sometimes we see this fruit, but even if we don’t see this fruit, doesn’t mean it’s not there or will never be there. Keep planting! Keep planting until the harvest.
Jesus finishes this first parable, 29When the crop is ready, he swings the sickle without delay, because the harvest has come.” Some farmers only see a harvest twice or three times a year. Those harvesting times are big paydays, and they have to be if the farmer is going to think about planting more seeds for the next season. The harvesting of believers are big days, too. Jesus has told us, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Also, even on his dying day, Jesus found joy in telling a sinner, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Look at the kingdom through God’s eyes. Through the parable of the growing seed, we see the harvest of all believers into heaven and keep planting the gospel message on human hearts.
- We see the seed, but God sees the mature plant.
This planting is a big deal, and that’s what Jesus wants us to see in the parable of the mustard seeds. 30Then he said, “To what should we compare the kingdom of God? Or with what parable may we picture it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which when sown on the ground is one of the smallest of all the seeds planted in the ground. The kingdom of God looked smaller than the Kingdom of Herod or the Kingdom of Caesar and Rome. The ministry of Jesus looked less impressive than the ministry of the do-good Pharisees or the ministry of the feel-good Sadducees. And when all of those parties conspired to be rid of Jesus through his death on the cross, they saw this small and unimpressive threat to their power coming to an end, but just as the mustard seed geminates and grows into the largest of all the garden plants, so also the kingdom of God grew and is bigger and more impressive than any other worldly power on earth.
About the mustard seed Jesus says, 32Yet when it is planted, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants …” The kingdom of God includes people from every nation, tribe, people, and language. There are no borders. There are no limitations. Everyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. A believer’s death does not subtract them from the kingdom of God. The Bible says, “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” The kingdom of God is bigger and better than the United States of America and every other worldly government. The kingdom of God is bigger and better than any other support group or club team or do-good organization. For emphasis Jesus closes, “and puts out large branches so that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.” The Bible says, “God rules over all things or all creation for the benefit of the church.” The opposite is also truth. The Church benefits all things. All of creation continues to spin on earth’s axis and circle the sun because God is ruling all things for the benefit of the church. The Bible also talks about how all creation will be liberated when all believers are brought into the kingdom of glory.
God sees the mature plant. God sees the kingdom of God as the biggest game changer in all the world, and through this parable of the mustard seed, God wants us, as his branches, to branch out and to make a difference in the world in which we live. And we will when we look at the kingdom through God’s eyes. Amen.