Thursday, May 7, 2015

Growing Seeds | Mark 4


Growing Seeds
Goal: That the hearers are patient with the fruitfulness of faith.
Malady: Impatience in evangelicalism/filling the pews.
Means: Proclamation of this text… trusting the Spirit/seed/God’s work

Readings: Psalm 1:1-6; 1 Cor. 3:4-9; Mark 4:26-34

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you
from God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord. Amen.
All these words, hear them with your ears and hold them in your hearts. (Ez. 3:10)

There’s a young mother with two kids, a preschooler and one a little older. She’s married and has a good network of friends. She has a great personality. And, she is also extremely pregnant. The last time I saw her, it looked like she was trying to shoplift a watermelon. (maybe, hand gesture) The other night, she was rushed to the hospital. Her water didn’t break. She didn’t go into labor. She wasn’t about to pop at all. And, that was the problem.

That day was the baby’s latest due date. And, the infant missed his appointment. When they finally tried to induce labor, they realized that the child was sitting crooked. In the ultrasound you could see his head angled to the side and his arm reaching its way out. If they tried to get the baby out of there, his arm would break at the least. She left the hospital the same night to take care of her husband and her kids. She now has to go to a specialist to see if they can help. There is nothing left for her to do but wait.

An office administrator was forced to resign suddenly, he had worked in his field for over twenty years and the past five were spent at the same location. The change blindsided his family and the shift was sudden. His wife who worked in the same field still had to finish out the year, his children needed a place to come home to for the summer, he was still working through severance packages, in between things… it was too soon for a different job and too late to cut all his ties to his old one. There wasn’t much for him to do beside wait.

She was ecstatic for her next mission trip to Madagascar. For years, she had helped as a medical doctor, tending to the sick as well as proclaiming the Gospel. This is the trip she worked the rest of the year for. This trip is where she had the best memories… it’s where her heart truly lied. Then, one year, as she went through all of the standard tests and medical procedures for her travel, they found something. It was a growth… a cancer. And, they had to treat it. She had to cancel her trip. She would probably never again directly help her mission in the same way that she had before. Her funds would be drained by medical treatment. She wouldn’t even be able to assist the ministry that way. She started the procedures, she began the tests and the treatment she needed. As she became a cancer patient all she could do was wait.

I have personally spoken with all three of these people. And, I know that they might sound a lot like you. You may not be at the pinnacle of pregnancy, somewhat unemployed, or a cancer patient. But, sometime in your life, maybe even right now, you have been put in a place where there was nothing left for you to do… but wait.

Yet, as we wait, we find ways to keep ourselves busy. We pick up hobbies or catch up on the news… we form new habits or refine old ones…. we air our dirty laundry or get advice from friends. Perhaps the thing we do the most as we wait is worry. There is an anxiety tied with the passing of time, an underlying distress as the outcome of our situation draws closer. There is a sort of helplessness and predictableness. There’s the yearning for the wait to just be over.

Imagine what would have happened if the farmer in our lesson had decided to worry about the crop every day of his life. He would go outside, dig up the seed, measure whether or not it had started to grow yet. He would flood his field with water, over-quenching his thirsty crop. Being too forceful would have killed any potential of plant growth.

But, that’s not how farming works. So, even his wait drags on. Day after day he rises and sleeps… in waiting. Jesus was reminding all of those surrounding him, especially the farmers who might have made up the majority, that just to eat, we need to wait. As the sower spreads his seed, he know that he won’t immediately gain from what he has planted. He goes into the practice of farming knowing that this is just the beginning. He scatters his crop in the hopes that he can trust the ground to let it grow. The soil will work for him as he waits.

 Although he may be hungry, he might need the funds he would receive from selling his crop, he might be anxious about how many of his seeds might actually grow, he might worry that he had not bough a good enough field for a decent crop… all he can do is wait.

For both the sower and our own situations, while we wait, life continues. As time passes, we change. We grow. The days pass. Then, something happens. The baby comes. The new job starts. The cancer’s gone… blades of grass form, growing up and changing into ears full of grain. The crop has come in. It’s time to move on.

Now, what if I told you, the seed in this parable is the Word of God? We have church leaders who sow. Like the great sower, they generously spill the words of God anywhere they can. They’re a visible example in the community who just won’t stop talking about and proclaiming the words of Jesus Christ. But, it is not just religious leaders who sow. We have elders, deacons, the board of lay ministry… we have Sunday School teachers, musicians, and worship leaders. Even more-so, we have students, children, and janitors. We have you and we have me. We all sow. Every single one of us. We sow many things, both good and bad. But, let us be known as those who sow the good… the Word of God.

As we do, as we gain enough courage to generously sow the seed, to spill the gospel over all aspects of our lives, it will find soil. That’s a fact. It might not be where we expect. We might be sharing Bible verses with one friend every single day and they still don’t believe, but when we have a chance encounter with a stranger, the seed grows. It doesn’t grow because of where we chose to plant it, because of our technique, or because of anything we could do. It grows because God allows growth. As we continue to water and wait, to tenderly watch our lives, God makes something out of his Word.

 He takes empty shells and gives them life. He plants a living seed in the dying dirt. And, it grows. It could be the smallest seed in the world. It could be as small as a mustard seed. But, after it is planted, it grows. It eventually gets big enough to tower over our heads. The tiny seed sprouts branches big enough to hold birds and families of birds. It yields fruit and its leaves are as green as ever. The tree grows and produces even more seeds which will then be scattered by the wind and planted by God. And, all that tree will do is wait.

 You see, as the tree waits, as the pregnant mother waits, as the CEO and the cancer patient wait, God is at work. He is watering his seed. He is breathing life into it and making it grow. Although it may seem hopeless, the seed might only have a crack in the sidewalk to grow in, God gives the seed hope and room to grow.

 Waiting is the hard part, but our God does not wait. He acts. This is epitomized in the sending of his son. As the Jews had waited for centuries for their messiah, the Lord had been working on their hearts. He had been tending his garden of faith, raising hope, and performing miracles. He was the one preserving his word as it was orally passed down from generation to generation. Then, when the time had come, he enters the scene. He cries out as an infant, grows as a boy, he waits… Then, he begins his ministry. He proclaims his word, he shares the truth with us. He digs up the dirt with his own hands and plants the seed of hope. He dies and rises again to fulfill that hope. Then, he leaves. And, we wait again.

We do not wait apart from him, but with him. He is still active in our thoughts and in our lives, he hears our prayers. He is with us in his word and in his meal, communion. It might feel as if we are waiting, but God is constantly acting. He gives us life, motion, and identity. He gives us strength to continue and thrive, to grow up and bear fruit of our own… to scatter seeds generously and live rooted in Him.

As we grow into mustard seeds big enough to hold generations of birds and plant generations of seed… we remember the fateful trees… the tree of life that we had once been separated from and the tree of life which the cursed Christ was hanged upon. It was that tree which was needed to plant our seed, to give us water, and to make us secure… to live and grow in Him. Amen.

Now, may the peace that passes all of our own understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus from this time forth. Amen.

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