Tony E Dillon-Hansen
Sermon based upon Mark 4:26-32, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, Psalm 92
How does the parable of the seeds describe the kingdom of God? That is good question, and in fact, I read and heard many people talk about how challenging Mark 4 can be. I agree there is some apocalyptic language here, but in these particular verses, there is something that might help to give us some hope.
You know I enjoy gardening, and we have talked about seeds: being branches – connected to God, and bearing fruit from John’s Gospel. The mustard seed parables has some similarities, but Mark’s usage is different.
If we read again, I would have us kind of focus upon the verses
“and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
There are a couple things that jump out – I might be scared of the sickle, Yet, 1) there are stages of growth or steps to discern, 2) and the earth produces of itself.
We don’t know why or how, and this means the mystery of God is something deeper than something we can see or hear. As written in 2 Corinthians 5, “So we are always confident; … we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Yes we walk by faith and we grow by faith. We grow in stages, and by faith, we adapt. We don’t know how or why our bodies grow, but we do. Indeed, hearing the good news, some will “indeed look and not perceive or indeed listen, but not understand.” (Mark 4:12)
This is different than being an engineer or landscaper, in that we don’t engineer our growth or how we ultimately turn out. When we read other parables, like of the sower of where the seed lands, we are left with questions and maybe desire to do engineering of some sort.
These parables challenge that because growth does not depend upon ourselves and is ultimately requires faith in our greater being. Alan Watts has talked about faith like this. That faith is not an expectation of what happens, but faith that things will work out – letting God.
On this notion, John Calvin agrees that we cannot control our destiny, and why we don’t do this alone- that we cannot. That is why God’s grace is so “irresistible” and why our faith is so important. Our faith in God’s nourishment is what allows us to grow, even in darkness, amidst calamities, droughts or division. The seed knows nothing of what will happen, but with faith, the seed transforms from something small (maybe somewhat insignificant) but something in darkness, in the ground, this something transforms into something else that is life giving. We grow from God’s creation to give life forward.
There is something deep, personal and intimate about this feeling. There is something powerful about the strength of our faith to go beyond what we think we see or don’t see. We learn, we adapt, we grow into what we are meant to be. Because, Faith allows us to seek justice in the midst of misfortune. Faith to encourage love over violence, pointing fingers or false accusation because the truth is much more than us. Faith says to be the love.
When we are deeply self-giving, deeply trusting in the faithfulness of God – for a people trying to figure what to do, there is something powerful here. Yet, there is patience and observation of steps to take – to grow - to be transformed – to continue.
The mustard seed parable continues with this image with the idea that we do well when we are connected to God, so we want to stay connected to the greater stalk and grow as strong branches of the one.
Think about it, the old tree has many tales to tell, but it got there over decades of practice in faith. It still produces sap and fruit because it is connected to the soil – connected to God. A good person, a good church, does not necessarily know the why (or how) it works, it just knows because we grow and we are connected to God.
Thanks Be to God.