Mystery of the Creeping Kingdom

Mark 4:26-34

Note: I tried something a little different Sunday, a sermon that involved more conversation with those in attendance than preaching. I’m also trying to take better advantage of forums like Facebook to be in conversation about a biblical text before I preach it. If you would like to join in those pre-sermon conversations, go the the Sermon Shorts page on Facebook. I’ll usually have basic information about the Bible text for the week posted by Tuesday or Wednesday. “Like” the page, and you’ll know when new postings are made.

When I was in second grade at Jonesborough Elementary School in Jonesborough, Tenn., we would have multiple classes on the playground during the same recess period. It was a new school, and it had a really big play area: swings, slides and other playground equipment, an outdoor basketball court and lots of green space sloping down from the building.

When it was time to go in, a teacher would gather all the kids simply by standing at the top of the hill and raising her hand. We knew we had better get in line quickly.

One day, my friend Sam said he was ready to go in. No problem, I said. I simply stood in the right spot and raised my hand. I didn’t really expect anything to happen.

Something did happen, however. What looked like a sea of second-graders washed toward me, coming from the slides, the swings, and the asphalt court at the bottom of the hill. Now I had both hands up: “No, no, I was just kidding!”

Then I looked behind me. There stood one of the teachers, her hand in the air. I’m not sure she had even seen me, or that any kid on the playground had noticed me; it simply was time to go in.

It was an early lesson for me in how we don’t always recognize the power behind us, the real cause of events in which we find ourselves. Understanding that God is behind all kingdom-building moments is the point of our Scripture today.

It’s a simple idea. Trust that God is doing the work. God even does the initial sowing, working through Jesus Christ to draw us back into a relationship. Yes, we’re invited, even commanded, to sow seed alongside God. But it is word of God’s saving grace being poured out on all creation that grows the kingdom, not our efforts.

Dialogue Time:

1) Are you sowing? If not, why not? Some of the people involved in the conversation, either in our worship services or on Facebook earlier in the week, noted a feeling of inadequacy. We talked about how discipleship is the answer. We need to know God’s word well enough to be able to tell others about it in a comfortable, relaxed way. We also have to know how to build genuine relationships that give us the right to tell another person about Christ.

2) Do you know where the field is? I noted that it’s usually not in the church building. The days when the lost actually entered the church looking for answers are over. We have to go outside, understanding our church building to be a place for worship and training. We heard some encouraging reminders of people who have learned of Christ through the simplest outreach efforts. Those stories took us to the “mustard seed” portion of our text.

I am convinced that the mustard seed parable is there to show us we will be surprised by what happens. Our expectations are rooted in what we think is possible. God tells us the results of our sowing will be rooted much more deeply, in what God says is possible.

In fact, we could be like I was on the playground in second grade, holding up both hands, so shocked at the results of our efforts that our first reaction is, “We have to stop this.” The people rushing at us may look different, or have unusual worship ideas, or have sets of problems unfamiliar to us.

But with God standing behind us, we have nothing to fear. If we’re faithful in sowing seeds, he’ll show us how to handle the crowds of people wanting Jesus in their lives.

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