PROPER #6…Series B
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (June 16th& 17th, 2018)
Title: Farmers of the Kingdom!
Text: Mark 4:26-34
I want to begin this morning by telling you something I learned in seminary (too many years ago) about the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God in our lives and in our world.
I learned in seminary that Jesus, in his preaching and in his teaching ministry, never compared the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God to the work of a carpenter…did you know that? Now, this is interesting and somewhat surprising considering the fact that, prior to beginning his brief three-year ministry of preaching and teaching, that Jesus’ vocation (and the vocation of his earthly father, Joseph) was carpentry (or, as some Biblical scholars argue, a stone mason, because we know from archeological evidence that most of the houses and buildings in 1stcentury Galilee were made, not of wood but of stone). And yet, not once in the four NT Gospels does Jesus compare the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God with the work of a carpenter or a stone mason…instead, Jesus consistently compares the growth and expansion of the Kingdom with the work of a farmer…a farmer who tills the soil and who plants the seed and finally harvests what the seed has produced. Clearly, the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God is more like FARMINGthan it is like BUILDING!
In the Gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Jesus tells two simple and easy to understand agricultural parables that speak of/describe the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God. The first is the parable of the Seed Growing Secretly (this parable appears only in the Gospel of Mark…this is one of my favorite parables). In this delightful story Jesus teaches us that the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God will NOT be like a volcanic eruption or the invasion of Normandy or a tickertape parade down Broadway…in fact, the growth and expansion of the Kingdom is more like a simple, humble farmer who tills the soil; plants a seed in the ground and then waits (patiently/expectantly/confidently) while the soil and the seed conspire together to produce an abundant harvest. Clearly, what is most important is not the work of the farmer, but the seed itself, which contains enormous power and potential and which grows mysteriously…inconspicuously…automatically!
The second agricultural parable is the parable of the Mustard Seed (which appears in all three of the so-called Synoptic Gospels…you will find the parable in the 13thchapter of Matthew and Luke and in the 4thchapter of Mark). In this parable Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is the smallest of all seeds (actually, Jesus was wrong about that; botanists tell us that there are seeds which are smaller than the mustard seed…like the orchid seed, which is one/300thof an inch long…but, please remember, Jesus was no botanist and the Bible is not a science book and the mustard seed is, after all, an extremely small seed). And from this small and insignificant almost microscopic seed comes “the greatest of all shrubs, which puts forth large branches so that the birds of the air can make their nests in it’s shade”!
The parables of the Seed growing Secretly and the Mustard Seed are missionary parables told by Jesus to remind his disciples down thru the centuries that the growth and expansion of God’s Kingdom does not, ultimately, depend upon us…we will not (by our good work and faithfulness) bring in the Kingdom…we do not build the Kingdom…the growth and expansion of the Kingdom is a mystery which is beyond our ability to manipulate or control or even fully understand…we are not the architects, carpenters and stone masons of the Kingdom of God…and that is because the Kingdom grows mysteriously (like the strange and inexplicable conspiracy between seed and soil)…the Kingdom grows inconspicuously (often, we can see very little evidence that anything is even happening)…the Kingdom grows automatically (without our help or assistance).
And the Good News…we are not (and God does not expect us to be) the architects and the builders…the carpenters and the stone masons of the Kingdom…that is not our responsibility…that is not our job (building the Kingdom is God’s responsibility)…so we can relax and do the Holy work we have been called to do…the work that in our Baptism we were commissioned to do…to be FARMERS of FAITH…scattering and planting (where ever we go and whatever we are doing) the precious seed of the Gospel of Grace and then waiting to see what God will do…waiting…waiting in faith and in hope…waiting with great confidence and absolute certainty for the seeds which we have been privileged to sow to take root and grow and, finally, when all is said and all is done, to yield an abundant harvest…