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Pentecost 3B Sermon
Mark 4: 26-34
with reference to 2 Corinthians 5:17
June 13, 2021

Sermon Archives


Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” Whenever I hear 2 Corinthians 5:17, I think of a song by the Lutheran music duet, “Lost and Found,” called New Creation. Please indulge me while I sing this tune.

Chorus: I wanna be a new creation; formed from the fingers of God’s right hand. I wanna be a new creation, God’s gonna make me stand!

Verse 1: I wanna see like Daniel, I wanna love like John, I wanna hope like Mary I wanna be the rock that’s built upon. I wanna laugh like Sarah, I wanna preach like Paul. I wanna live like Lazarus, play my trumpet and watch the crumbling wall. Chorus

Verse 2: I want to trust like Noah, I wanna see like the man born blind. I wanna pray like Simeon prayed, I wanna be the coin that the finder finds. But if I never move the mountain and if I never part the sea; and if I never slay the giant, God do what you want with me. God do what you want with me. Chorus

Being a new creation is a gift that comes from our connection with the Kingdom of God. In our appointed scripture for the day, we have a couple of what I call, “plant-based parables of the kingdom.” In our first reading, Ezekiel tells the prophecy that God will take a sprout from the very top of the might Cedar of Lebanon - a symbol for the kings in the line of David which had been defeated by the Babylonians; God will replant it so that it will grow anew. It is a promise of hope that these people who have been beaten down, their capital and temple destroyed and so many carted off to exile will be restored. God may have allowed judgement to fall upon the people for their unfaithful rulers, but God is trustworthy, and will renew the promised rule of the godly line.

In the Gospel we have the parable of the mustard seed. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone plants. It is a tiny seed, but when it grows it becomes a great bush that spreads and takes over the whole area. You may have heard me talk about mustard seed plants before - no one really sows them intentionally, they just grow and spread and can become kind of a nuisance. Some consider them a weed - a plant that is not particularly wanted or desired by the people who control the patch of land from where it emerges. Mustard was considered invasive, and when it would spread into the cracks of concrete, it can cause damage to sidewalks and even buildings. This is what the Kingdom of God is like?

Yes - according to Jesus, this is what the kingdom of God is like! It starts out tiny, unnoticed and insignificant. When it is in the right environment - like nutrient-rich soil or a community of love and mercy - it grows and grows. Usually, it involves participation in activities that we would not choose but that is beneficial for the community. When I was in my previous congregation, we partnered with a number of other Lutheran churches to plan and run a confirmation camp between the end of school and the beginning of the regular camping season. One year the theme of the four days together was, “Be a New Creation,” and that Lost and Found song I shared was the theme song. We sang it a lot, which is why I identify it with the passage from 2 Corinthians so much even today. It really relates to the parable of the mustard seed because the Kingdom of God often takes us to places we would not have gone if we had our choice, and doing things we might not ever have seen ourselves doing. It relates to the parable of the sprout from the mighty cedar in Ezekiel because God has promised to plant us and grow us into a new creation, formed the fingers of God’s right hand!

This past Thursday was the 31st anniversary of my ordination into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. I have served in three congregational settings - in Donnelsville, Oak Harbor, and here in Columbus, Ohio. I have served on boards, councils and committees of the synod and other ministries of the church, but I can honestly say that those things that have brought me the most joy and fulfillment have been the opportunities to be with people in these three communities of faith. They have not always been easy - I have watched people die and held newborns, I have cried with divorcing couples and celebrated with sports victories and fantastic performances in the arts. I have lugged furniture out of homes and apartments and taken elderly folks with no close family to doctor’s appointments. I have baptized, confirmed, married and buried hundreds if not thousands of people. Like the mustard seed bush, the kingdom of God has invaded the communities through my quiet, unassuming presence with people for these 31 years. I didn’t plant it, nor did any bishop, seminary professor or church council.

God has planted that kingdom and has encouraged - pushed me actually at times - to share the peace and joy of the kingdom of God through my life. Often, I just go about things without much thought of how invasively that kingdom is spreading through my ministry, and sometimes I am reminded of ways in which people have experienced the kingdom through my ministry. Just a few months ago, a young couple from Oak Harbor tagged me on Facebook as they were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. It was a wedding at which I officiated. They said that they never forgot what I said in my homily and in pre-marital counseling - that no matter how long they are married, they should always remember and doing the things that made them fall in love in the first place. I have to be honest with you, I only vaguely remember saying something like that to them … and it also struck me that it is some advice I could use at times as Lucy and I approach 30 years of marriage ourselves! But this happens to me all the time - people from my past thanking me for being an influence on their lives, and when it happens, I know that it is not me but God at work, spreading the kingdom like a mustard seed plant.

You know what else happens to me a lot? People tell me how much of an influence this congregation and the people of it are on their lives. You … you do so many things which are at the same time not what you would do if you had your choice, and yet you do without even giving it a second thought. From visits, cards, food and caring for folks in our congregation and community who need help, to partnering with other agencies and ministries to feed, clothe and house those in need. You sing and play instruments that helps people praise the Lord! You donate of your resources or your time. This is mustard seed faith, seemingly small and insignificant, and yet it is the very kingdom of God invading this world and this community quietly and covertly to break apart the evil influences that exist, and establish that proverbial bush so that all may rest in its branches.

I once told Michael and George - the two gentlemen who make up Lost and Found, that we used their sing as our theme for catechism camp. They said that the beauty of the song is that it lifts up all of these heroes of the Bible that we look up to - Daniel, Mary, Noah, Lazarus and the rest - and acknowledges that we desire to follow their example. But, if we never do anything that will be earth shattering or newsworthy, we still pray that God does what he wants with us. And that is our prayer today - God, do what you want with me!
I have never been the feature of a newspaper story - thank God! This congregation has on occasions when we try to get folks to participate in our outreach, but we aren’t terribly famous. But we are faithful, and the kingdom of God has and continues to invade our community because of our faithfulness and because God continues to make of us a new creation. May God’s creative power continue to be at work in each of us and in this family of faith. Amen.