SERMON FOR THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SERMON FOR THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
from Pastor Michael Jarick.
Text: Mark 4:26-34
The Church today seems to be an insignificant minority. We know church attendance figures have declined significantly in the last 50 years. We know people who once attended regularly and maybe were leaders of the congregation who now have nothing to do with it.
The Christian Church has less influence over the major developments in our nation. When the Church does speak out on important moral issues, many people ignore what it has to say, or like Andrew Denton in an address to the National Press Club on the topic of euthanasia acknowledged that the Catholic Church provided more than 70% of all palliative care in Australia, and then went on to say that the church had no right to express an opinion on euthanasia. Of course everyone was expected to listen to his point of view, and to agree with his assertions.
The two parables in today’s Gospel reading are our Lord’s encouragement to those who are worried about the future of the Church. Our God is a God of small beginnings. But, from small beginnings, initiated by God, come immense results. The seeds we sow for God will result in the greatest harvest there has ever been. The Lord of the harvest will see to that.
Those who heard Jesus preach were astonished at the power in his words. His parables were anything but nice stories or pretty illustrations. Together with his miracles, they are more like heaven invading our world. In them, Jesus takes familiar activities like sowing and reaping, waking and sleeping, and gives them a spiritual meaning. He uses familiar things to help us to see anew what God is doing in our midst.
Jesus’ parables speak volumes to those who embrace the key to them, and that is Jesus himself. He is the hidden meaning to most of his parables. In telling them, Jesus is pointing us to what he has come to do for us, and how he is working in our midst to rescue and redeem us.
For those with eyes to see, there’s a parallel between how God works in the natural world and in the spiritual realm. Natural is supernatural, in the sense that God is everywhere. Who can adequately explain the life in a seed that grows and multiplies? How can the essence of life lay dormant for over 3,000 years in seeds found in an Egyptian tomb and still spring to full growth when planted?
Jesus sees parallels between what farmers and gardeners do and what God’s word is doing in our hearts and minds. Today’s first parable traces the progress of God’s word within us. We can be so impatient for results, not just within ourselves, but also in the lives of our fellow Church members, that we don’t allow God time to complete what can only grow and develop slowly, step by step. For some folk, the sowing of the seed is barely finished before they want to bring in the header. God takes things slowly. God is rarely in a hurry.
We live in an era when people want quick results. We become anxious when that doesn’t happen. Jesus, however, isn’t in a hurry. He walks with us at our pace, so that we can grow in the way he sees best, in faith, hope and love.
Imagine the pressure there must have been on Jesus to do what needed to be done as quickly as possible. The people had been 600 years without a prophet from God, so when one came along he had a lot of catching up to do.
How different was Jesus’ way of working! Though the burden of the whole world lay heavily on his shoulders, Christ Jesus made time to talk with people in need. In fact, Jesus spent lots of time with people regarded as unimportant, insignificant men, women and children, like lonely widows, tax officials and prostitutes. He doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that they are not influential, only that they are God’s lost and straying children.
When Jesus has set his eyes on Jerusalem, on his way there for the last time, he interrupts his mission to help a blind beggar. Blind beggars were a dime a dozen in the ancient world. But every person is dearly loved by God and worth saving. Jesus serves his neighbour – the one who is near to him and in need – and he entrusts those further away into his heavenly Father’s hands.
Jesus makes time for needy individuals because the times and seasons of each life are in God’s hands. With growth God’s responsibility, Jesus gives each person who comes to him what they as an individual need. He treats them differently: one man he asks to follow Him; to another he says: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the LORD has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you (Mark 5:20).”
Just when you think Jesus should seize the opportunity to address the crowds coming to him and convince them of what he has come to do, he withdraws to pray. Jesus spoke with such authority and conviction because he first sought God’s blessing on what he was going to do. His powerful preaching derives from his powerful praying. He prays that God would bless the seeds he has sown.
When we share the Gospel of Chris, there is always much more is happening behind the scenes than we think. God’s word is never inactive. God says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth: it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).”
It is a joy, isn’t it, to see people of all ages grow in their faith and commitment to Jesus and in their compassion, kindness and consideration for others. A living faith is a growing faith, and the growth occurs most of the time behind the scenes where God alone can see it. Our presence here today is one of the many things that are right with the Church.
The trouble is that the things we think are wrong with the Church are so obvious and loom so large in our thinking that we don’t see all the good things going on all around us. In today’s parables, Jesus reassures us that there will be a glorious harvest out of all proportion to all our sowing. It takes little skill to criticise the Church Jesus loved so much that he gave his life for it. The failings we see in the Church today are just variations on the failings of the first sinful saints. It takes a lot more patience and skill to list all that’s good about the Bride of Christ. Christ himself is gradually preparing her to be presented in all her splendour.
It’s incredible, isn’t it, that Christ uses imperfect farmers and gardeners like us to sow seeds that will sprout and grow and produce into eternity. The seeds we sow will make a difference. Jesus has an eye for the value of small things, small things like a cup of water to a thirsty child, a widow’s penny, and the difference one talent can make.
A church-goer recently said that his purpose in attending a worship service or a Bible study is to be a different person at the end of the time together than at the beginning. I like that attitude. We can have confidence of this, for this is God’s own work, as the Apostle Paul says: “I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).” Amen.
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