Sow and Grow

Meditation on Mark 4:26-34

June 17, 2018

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

 

         26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27   and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow,  he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.   29 But 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? 31 It is like a mustard seed,  which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet 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; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

 

***

 

I felt a tug on my skirt and looked down to see my little friend, Piper, looking up at me. She almost always has a smile on her face, but now she looked serious. We were waiting in line for donuts  at the MIPC Preschool’s “Donuts for Dads” event in the fellowship hall Friday morning. I kneeled down and asked the 4 year old with a sunny disposition,  “Did your dad or granddad make it today?”

She shook her head sadly, and I gave her a hug.

 “Will you sit by me, then?” I asked. She nodded, slipping her hand in mine. I built our plates with mini cake donuts–she wanted chocolate  and I took powdered sugar.  We sat down together at one of the long tables set up for the special program to honor fathers and grandfathers.  We talked and ate as the room buzzed with happy noises and movement around us.  

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The gathering started at 10, with my opening prayer. Then about 36 children filed in, including the elementary school age kids in our summer camp.  They lined up on stage and sang “Daddy’s Hands” and “Daddy, Daddy, I Love You.” They recited a poem that starts, “Daddy You Are As Smart as Ironman…”

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More than 30 men attended Friday’s program.  They came alone or with their wives. Some were grandparents raising grandchildren. One grandfather, who attends a Nazarene church, shared his testimony, telling me about his new-found faith that has changed his life. I knew his 3 grandchildren at our preschool when he mentioned them by name.

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I said hi to one young dad, sitting by himself,  waiting for the program to begin, looking like he wanted to be somewhere else. His face changed, though, when I exclaimed,  “You’re Marley’s dad?  Marley’s awesome!”  

    Hannah and Jeffrey’s mother had tears running down her face as the children sang. She was so emotional, she said, that she had trouble holding up her phone to record the program. The families stayed awhile after the program ended,  talking and laughing with their kids and each other. That made me feel good to see them so comfortable. Many said thank you. We had plenty of donuts– and some left over. Piper went up for seconds and then a third time for a big, custard-filled chocolate covered donut. I didn’t need another donut, but I suggested we share it because it was so big. I worried she might get sick.  That was fine with her!

      Just as she took a bite, a wonderful thing happened.

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Her father showed up, sat down and gave her a hug. He had driven from Sebastian that morning.   “I’m sorry I am late!” he said, looking into her eyes.  “Did I miss your singing?”

He gave her a sad look, but she just smiled and hugged him back.

With “Donuts for Dads,” “Muffins for Moms” and other events the preschool and church host for children and young families each year, we try to show our gifts of hospitality, generosity and love–as Christ calls us to do.  

Without preaching or quoting the Bible, we can still plant seeds of faith  and pray the Lord of the Harvest will make the seeds sprout and grow.  When we scatter seeds and show warmth and hospitality to strangers, we are changed.

We grow in faith, hope and love. And we want to sow some more!

 

***

Christ invites his followers to sow and grow  in our gospel reading today. This passage is two parables in a chapter of parables, each one building on or explaining what comes before.  The Kingdom of God is all around us. We have an important role; it grows by God’s grace that leads us to embrace God’s Word,  live by faith and share it with others.

The parables, stories with layers of meaning, simple and symbolic, secular and sacred, are a window into the agrarian world in which Jesus lives. They begin with the familiar “sower and the seed.”  Seed is eaten by birds, falls on rocky ground, is scorched in the sun and choked by thorns. But some falls on good soil and yields an abundance of grain. Jesus explains the parables to his 12 when they are alone, for they have been given the  “secret of the kingdom of God” he says, and will understand what others cannot. The seed is the word; Satan tries to steal it away; those without root hear and have joy, but fall away when trouble comes. The word sown among thorns is choked out by the  “cares of the world,”  “the lure of wealth  and the desire for other things.”  Seeds sown on good soil are those who  hear, accept God’s word and bear fruit–do God’s will.

Right before today’s passage is Christ’s parable of the lamp that you wouldn’t put under a bushel basket or bed;  you place it on a lampstand, to bring the light of understanding to all who have ears to listen. He concludes with a warning against holding on too tightly to things.  “The measure you give,” he says, “will be the measure you get,  and still more will be given to you.”

Then we come to today’s two parables–the growing seed and the mustard seed. The growth of God’s Kingdom is a mystery to human beings–those who sleep at night and wake up to find the scattered seeds have sprouted and grown.  Only the Lord knows the hearts of human beings. Only God knows our days before we have lived them and the plans he has for each of us. But God always desires our spiritual growth and the growth of His Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is so powerful that it can grow to a tree from a tiny seed;  a mustard seed was probably the smallest where Jesus lived, and it grew fast to become a great shrub, even a mustard tree.  

      The Kingdom is all around us; we see it by faith. It is a blessing to everyone, not just Christians, but for all the earth, through the followers of Christ, just as God told Abraham  that his children would bless all the families of the earth. The birds of the air make a home and find comfort, nourishment, shade and rest in the Kingdom tree.  Jewish believers in Mark’s time would be stirred to recall Daniel’s vision of God’s Kingdom in 4:10-12 as a tall tree at the “center of the earth” :

     “The tree grew great and strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant,  and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it,  the birds of the air nested in its branches,  and from it all living beings were fed.”

 ***

On Thursday night, about 36 people from our congregation gathered to be a blessing to local children in need through the Children’s Hunger Project.

We are Christ’s hands and feet, each of us with different skills and abilities that enable us to do different jobs. Everyone is important and needed in God’s work. Our group assembled 818 bags in less than 2 hours! And it was fun being with people we love.

We are a powerful force for good when we work together in shared mission, helping people in need, reaching out to show hospitality to strangers and friends. We experience such joy and peace scattering seeds of faith through kindness and generosity.

Like the disciples long ago, we have been given the secret to the Kingdom of God: sow and grow.

When we sow, we are changed. We grow in faith, hope and love.

And we want to sow even more!

 

Let us pray.

 

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Kingdom that your Son, Jesus Christ, ushered in. Give us eyes to see your Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven, and ears to hear your Word and obey. Thank you for our role in growing your Kingdom–your charge to us to sow seeds of kindness, generosity and hospitality. Grow our faith, Lord. Build our hope. Pour more of your love into our hearts and stir us to share it with others, particularly people in need. Use us as instruments of healing and reconciliation. May we be a blessing, with all that you have given to us, to the families of the earth, as you promised Abraham long ago. Strengthen and guide us in the footsteps of your Son, through whom we pray. Amen.

 

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