hand-holding-sprouting-seed

Sermon Script: Mark 4:20-32
Sermon Purpose: The Kingdom of God is a seed that grows – not dies.
Sermon Title: “Grow”

I’d like to start this morning’s message by reminiscing about the Great Bill Hogan. Bill was a colonel in the Air Force and spent the latter part of his career flying B1 Bombers. I met Bill after he retired from the Air Force while he and I were attending Asbury Theological Seminary and working as a facilitators at the Asbury University Challenge Course. Bill used to tell all the groups who came through this simple parable. Everything that lives grows. Grass grows. Trees Grow. We all know weeds grow. To grow into our best requires stretching. Let me ask y’all something. What does a dog or cat do first thing when it wakes up? It stretches – right? There on the challenge course Bill used this parable to encourage participants to stretch outside of their comfort zones to try something new. Bill would go on to explain the only things that do not stretch and grow in this world are dead things. This last statement put the participants in a position to make a choice. We can stretch and grow, or we can sit back and die. What choice will we make? I have told Bill’s parable this morning because we are going to talk about what it means to grow and we are going to get there by examining two parables about seeds.

Recently, my children planted sunflower seeds in the back yard. They were careful to pick which seed to plant. I dug two holes – one for each child. Each of my children scooped potting soil out of the bag to make a nice space for the flowers to grow. Then they planted their seeds. Nearly every day my children go outside and every day they are eager to see what the seeds are doing. Neither of my children knows how or why the seeds grow. They are just excited to see how the plants stretch for the sky. One day the sunflowers will be taller than my children, and my children are excited to see how this miracle happens. Jesus says this is very similar to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like the tiny seed of a mustard plant. When the seed is sown it grows and grows into a bush which provides shelter and refuge for birds to build their nests in its shade.

As I consider this parable it seems to me Jesus is not talking about the Kingdom of God as if it were some place constructed of brick and mortar, walls and guards, palaces and jails. No, I think Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God planted inside of us. Consider this for a moment. The Holy Spirit painstakingly offers prevenient grace. Prevenient grace prepares the soil of our hearts until we can receive the seed which is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Justifying grace clears the damage done by the weeds in our heart. None of us were meant to stay a seed with that hard outer shell. Each and every one of us is meant to grow. We are meant to stretch beyond our protective shell. We are meant to put forth roots which ground us in God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s Word. We are meant to stretch and grow toward the Son. We are to allow the Son’s warmth to encourage us to stretch out to our pew buddies, to the people across the room, and to the people outside this building. What will we offer those people outside this building? Will we offer thorny personalities and pricks of judgment; or will we offer the Son’s warmth and God’s grace? Will we bear the bitter fruit of anger and resentment; or will we bear the fruit of the Son’s love which is in keeping with works of repentance? Will we be a refuge to the poor in spirit, the meek and those who mourn? Will we scatter the seeds of God’s love as far as grace will allow? Or will we refuse to stretch and grow? Will we choose to die?

As we grow and mature in our faith like the seed in the parable of the mustard seed we will discover that we begin to change. Our likes and dislikes begin to change. The way we decide to spend our time begins to change, and what causes us to become angry begins to change. As this process goes on we find ourselves less concerned with who is sitting in our pew. As we grow in grace we become less worried about whether worship goes the way I want, or who forgot to write a thank you note to whom, or no one called to make me feel important. What we find is these small things stop making us angry. We discover peace in Christ. Suddenly the things which once seemed so important start to matter less. However, new things take their place – God things. We begin to look at those in our congregation who are no longer able to do for themselves. Those of us who are working may send cards, letters or for the more tech savy among us e-mails to those at home. Those who are retired may make it a point to visit shut ins. Just because the pastor visits with people it does not mean the congregation cannot as well.

The closer we grow to God the more we may struggle with the fact we still become angry. Jesus became angry with the money changers and drove them out of the temple. Jesus’ rage was born out of a strong sense of justice. The temple sacrifices were supposed to be about making restitution or giving thanks to God, and not about making money for the priests. Jesus’ anger was about putting things in right order and standing up for the poor who could not afford to exchange their currency – much less buy an animal without blemish.

As we mature in faith we will still become angry, but our anger will mimic Jesus’ anger in the temple. Instead of seeking out the petty injustices among us we will seek out the injustices of inequality in our community? I don’t know about you, but it makes me angry when I see people working two jobs and still having to live at the Economy Inn or the Budget Inn. It makes me angry when I hear about children falling behind in school because they are distracted by hunger, or a complete disregard for the value of education in their homes. It makes me angry when I see people inside and outside of this building treat others as if they don’t matter because they are poor, or unemployed or living in a tent. These are people. They are still the people God calls into God’s family. Shouldn’t we invite these people into God’s family as well? I am not talking about a hand out. I am talking about a graceful hand up in life. Our anger about the injustices we see in our town should drive us to fight for justice through grace and love.

What would it look like for our church to reach out to the poor and the working poor in our community? Do we even know who they are? Who are the children who are struggling in school? Who are the adult immigrants who do not know the language and need a little help? To address these injustices even in small ways is to follow the example of the farmer in the first parable of the sower. We are to scatter the seeds of God’s love and justice in a world that has all but forgotten what God’s love and justice look like. We are to show the people in our community we care about them by being willing to fight for them. However, to do that is going to mean we have to step outside of our comfort zones. A month ago the people of this church voted to fight to keep the doors open. Fighting to keep the doors open is not enough. We cannot just pay the bills so we can keep the lights on. That’s not gonna get it done. We have to stretch and grow to be able to scatter and sow. And what should we be scattering and sowing, but the love of God.

Oh sisters and brothers the call to be disciples of Jesus Christ has a heavy weight to it; but Christ’s yoke is still lighter than any placed on us by the world. Let us stretch and grow into our responsibility as disciples. Christ has no hands on earth but our hands to share the love of God. Christ has no feet on earth but our feet to run out those doors with an eager desire to serve God by serving others. Brothers and sisters, now is the time to face our fears, and step out of our comfort zones. Now is the time to stretch and grow to be able to scatter and sow.

In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.

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