The text for this sermon is Mark 4:26-34.
I am not a gardener and certainly not a farmer. In fact, my family have been city people for a long time. None of my parents or grandparents, going back over one hundred years, were ever farmers. I have my father’s dislike for even yard work. The only thing that keeps me mowing, laying mulch and trimming the hedges is the fear my neighbors will talk about me if I don’t. I would be quite happy in one of those new high rise apartments they are building downtown.
That said, I could totally farm like the guy in Jesus’ parable from Mark. He throws out the seeds, almost haphazardly it seems. Then what does he do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. At least nothing to do with farming. He goes about his business. Gets up in the morning, takes care of the kids, gets them off to school, reads his paper, drinks a cup of coffee before he goes to his “real” job, comes home, cooks a meal for his family, plays Sorry with the kids before sending them to bed, watches the Walking Dead, then goes to bed himself, only to get up and do it again. You know what he doesn’t do? Go out into that field, pull any weeds, use that sharp thing with the long handle to move dirt around, get any horrible tanlines, or dirt between his fingernails. I read this story and thought I can do that.
So, it is no surprise that he is completely surprised when the seeds that were thrown haphazardly in the spring are full blown plants ready to be harvested in the fall. Hello. This guy should write a book. How to grow things without breaking your back. I got to believe not just city folks but even farmers would buy it. Unfortunately, it might be a short book. Because in the story, the guy throwing the seeds is as perplexed as we are that this unusual method of farming even worked.
Here is the thing, the guy throwing the seeds isn’t the reason the seed grow. Jesus starts the story, the Kingdom of God is as if “someone” would scatter seed on the ground. We could change someone to anyone, a retired teacher, a contractor, a nurse, a financial advisor, an organist, a pastor. The person throwing the seed doesn’t have to worry about weather patterns or fertilizer choices. They just have to be willing to toss the seeds, then go about their business being human in this world reflecting God’s image. Someone could be anyone, the seed is what is at the center of these parables.
The Kingdom of God is like someone scattered the seed and then went about their business. The Kingdom of God is contained in this seed and scripture is full of great descriptions of what this plant looks like. Mary, the mother of Jesus sings a song in the book of Luke describing the Kingdom as a place where the underclass finds room to breathe and those who have had it good in this world on the backs of the poor find life harder. Read the beatitudes in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God will be a place where those who grieve will be comforted, those who are meek and unassuming will be celebrated, those who are peacemakers will be honored, those who fight for justice will be rewarded, those who are merciful to their neighbor will receive mercy. The Kingdom of God will be a place of healing, like in the ninth chapter of John when a man born blind is given sight and with his sight sees clearly Jesus is God.
These two parables in Mark tell us we can’t stop God’s Kingdom from taking over creation. The Kingdom of God is like a seed that is planted that nothing can keep from growing. The cares of this world, like weeds won’t be able to crowd out God’s kingdom by their own agendas. Church goers who try to trample out the Kingdom by their hypocrisy and lack of love for neighbor that destroys people’s confidence in the church can’t destroy the Kingdom. Cosmic, demonic evil forces that pluck the plants as fast as they spring up in order for no trace of the Kingdom to be found can’t win either.
The secret to this Kingdom that makes it so hearty is that it stays low to the ground and doesn’t look like much to outsiders. The Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed that becomes a wide, mangy, unruly mustard bush that gets to be over six feet tall in one season. The powers of this world are like giant oaks who hardly ever believe the Kingdom of God can affect their rule. Jesus is the king but he comes to reign riding on a donkey with only peasants to greet him with palms. Jesus is the king and his crown is made of thorns jammed down on his head by the religious people who don’t like his agenda of acceptance. Jesus is the king, but his throne is a cross provided by other kings who don’t much like the tenacity of his kingdom.
To encourage this Kingdom, we need to do absolutely nothing, except go about our business being human in this world, reflecting God’s image. The seeds of the Kingdom are out there already, thrown by generations of people before us. Messiah began when ripened fruit from the Kingdom fell to the ground on this corner of Reynoldsburg almost sixty years ago. It is not our job to grow the Kingdom. It is our call to simply live in the Kingdom, as we go about our day, getting up in the morning, getting the kids off to school, going to our jobs, making dinner, watching bad TV. We are called to live in the shade of a mangy mustard bush, rather than the shade of the giant oak of whatever other kingdom wants our allegiance. We are called to drop to the ground like ripened fruit, serving the creation as we die to this world and are broken open for the Kingdom of God.
Bob and Sarah Crist live in the Kingdom, but they don’t know how to farm. Their house is no castle, just a modest home off of Main in Reynoldsburg. They are not wealthy landowners, but young retirees who had the good fortune to work for the same company for decades. They spend their time bird watching, water skiing, camping and travelling to see their daughters and Bob at least drinking good quality beer that most of his friends don’t appreciate. They live in the Kingdom by living here with us and sharing our passion for the least and the lost and the God who has saved them and us. Sarah is a leader at Joseph’s Coat helping take care of housewares. Bob shares his musical gifts in two choirs at Messiah, practicing twice a week, plus supports and encourages our men’s breakfast. Their commitment to live in the Kingdom, to worship God, share their wealth with God, and give their talents to God’s world, is the secret that the Kingdom of God is thriving on this corner.
God’s Kingdom is going to overtake this world whether you decide to live in it or outside of it. God’s Kingdom will prevail and we don’t have to lift a finger to make it happen. We are called to simply live in her branches, being human, reflecting God’s image. Fruit that ripens, dies, falls to the ground and scatters more seed, like many someone’s before you. Amen