Sermon, Sunday June 17, 2018
Pentecost 4B, St Petri
Mark 4:26-3426 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’ 30 Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/20180617_message.mp3
Farmers, to urban people seem to talk slowly, move slowly, have a considerable less frenetic lifestyle (which is envied by some). Farmers don’t seem to be chasing fashion – especially in Western Queensland where the utes are huge, the rugby shorts short and the ten-gallon hats large!
This parable seems like one a farmer would tell. I must say, at first, I find this parable ho-hum.
The farmer sows the seed in the ground. He sleeps, he rises and he waits. It does not seem to matter what he does. He does not even tend it: No sprays; no fertiliser to maximise yield. He sees that the crop is ready to be harvested. He sends in the sickle to it and hey presto. That’s it.
This guy seems very laid back! He is not like my brother in law and his son whom I saw one year take the 200 or so tines from their 60ft seeding bar and manually weld all 200 of them the same way to achieve a 10mm change in angle – all to get the absolute maximum rip and depth on that bar for their 9000 acres of crop! It took them two weeks of hard, hard work! Isn’t that how we do things? We are anything but ‘laid back’. We are busy. We are pushing for more. We are wanting to maximise everything we do. “If you are going to do something, do it properly”, I can hear my Dad saying.
This farmer does not seem to be like that at all. He has no idea how the seed grows. He sleeps, he wakes, he sleeps…. If this guy had a performance review on his key performance indicators there would no indicators indicating any performance!
Are we supposed to be that laid back about the gospel? Doesn’t it really matter what you do or say or how awake or asleep you are to the existence and movement of Jesus’ kingdom because he will grow it anyway.
To us ‘maximising’, busy Christians prone to being either oblivious to the kingdom’s growth, disinterested in its progress or simply misled by superficial observations of people and situations precisely because we are so stressed and busy, is Jesus really saying, “just put your feet up, switch on the Telly and let me do it all”. “Relax people! “Chill out, Christians. Take a Panadol Pastor and have a lie down. No need to do anything much because God will grow his kingdom with or without you anyway”.
I don’t like this parable! It goes against everything I have learnt about how much effort it takes to sow gospel seeds and reap them in people/kingdom terms! It goes against how I was raised and how I have been taught in the church. It is unsettling! I don’t like being told that I can’t control growth, maximise it, plan it, strategize it, make it happen more or faster.
But here it is and here we are – a church with a mission to sow words of Jesus, who will himself be The Seed rising from the dead ground to bring new life and growth to dead sinners. But then I found something. We do get to be involved after all. We are called to do more than be sleepy Christians, disinterested Christians, or non-watching and praying Christians.
The farmer actually gets to do three things in this seed growing/kingdom coming enterprise? • He scatters the seeds on the ground. • He notices when the plant that has grown • He takes the sickle to it.
He scatters and he notices and reaps, and in between he sleeps, rises, sleeps and rises and the seed grows…..
Scatter, notice and Reap/act when the moment of harvest dawns. That is our part.
We usually work out the best plan, work the plan hard to maximise the results, and get the best results we can. But here the rhythm is different: Scattering, noticing and reaping – and we are not in control of all three. We don’t make any of it happen. We just play our part.
Scattering seeds of the gospel must be exactly that; scattering gospel words, doing grace actions among others that can seem as insignificant as a mustard seed to them and us, but not the Lord.
Scattering gospel seeds is not an exact science either. Sowing for this farmer was a very inaccurate. No 60 ft seeding bars and agronomist to get the fertiliser and depth and GPS and moisture just right. No, just human fingers throwing seed into roughly tilled soil and pretty much hit and miss as to germination. Scatter. Sow. Plant. An inexact activity but enough for the kingdom to take root, according to the One who makes the garden grow.
And then wait and notice or “reap”. I think I know how this works… The other Friday night at Shed Happens I was scattering Jesus’ words among the blokes gathered. Later I heard from one of the guys who puts the thing together that one of our regular non-church blokes thought my message was a bit morbid, a bit negative.
So, I scattered a gospel seed as best as I could with human words and this man heard it. He must have to make that comment. Maybe the seed is germinating in him. And maybe the guy who was standing next to this guy was doing the noticing. And maybe the job now is for both of us to wait and notice some more and when there is some sign of a growth in trust in Jesus (usually in the form of a comment or a question), we take the sickle to the guy!
But how? What about reaping? I reckon this is where we Lutherans struggle. We scatter the gospel seeds pretty well. We notice that comment at Christmas or that word used by someone at the shops or that change of heart from someone at work or school, or wrong friends.
But what we seem to really struggle with is the confidence to get the harvest sickle going!
Is it because we don’t like conflict or feeling uncomfortable or the sense that we may to be liked for a bit. Probably.
It may be that we have somehow heard all our lives so far that we have not got much of a story to share. That’s not true.
It may be that we are just not that full of Jesus stories to share either. Maybe?
What do you do when you notice there is an opening for a word, an action, a short exchange of something about your faith, who you know Jesus to be, your perspective on that issue? I think we tend to put the sickle away for some reason.
Here is the really good news. Ours is only a PART of this Kingdom of God’s grace growing! The Holy Spirit is the heavy lifter with the bold plan and the mega resources to make is all happen.
Phew! I can try and get it wrong, and try again. This is not all on me. I can be quite laid back about scattering, noticing and reaping like this farmer in the parable.
I can do a couple of things to grow in confidence as a gospel farmer who can reap when necessary:
I can brush up on my Jesus stories in my words. I have time to do that. I can read them again and remember them.
I can ask for help in getting my own story in place so I can share it because I count and my story counts, no matter how much like a insignificant mustard seed I think it is. God doesn’t think all he has been doing in your life so far is ho-hum! Neither will another person. The Lord will make sure of it!
Yes. With stories of the faith and my own story to share, relax alright.
Friend, scatter as best as you can. It is not an exact science. It does not have to be.
Notice people and changes. Listen a lot.
Reap. Wait and then share, act, invite, welcome, comment and leave it at that. Job done today.
There will come tomorrow and another opportunity.
Scatter, Notice and Reap. That is the kingdom way. Amen
Recall two or three Jesus parables or stories you already know and imagine telling them in your words.
Get your life story in order. If you sensed it was right, what would you say to bring glory to Jesus and his grace in your life to a person. Make it short but make it you.