A sermon based on Mark 4:26-34
Sunday, June 21, 2015 – Pentecost 4B
In hindsight, it maybe wasn't the best idea we'd ever had. But a couple of us college freshman thought it would be fun. We'd play hide-and-go-seek tag down at the local park near the school. And some guys really got into it. They dressed all in black with black stocking caps. They even put black face paint on so they'd be really hard to spot. And we had fun playing the game. That is, until the neighbors, a bit unsettled by seeing men running around their house dressed all in black hiding in the bushes and dropping out of the rafters of the park gazebo, thought it might we wise to have the local cops check things out.
So right in the middle of our action-packed game, things got really exciting. I think it may have been the most action the police of sleepy New Ulm, Minnesota saw in a long time, because before we knew it, we were surrounded. Half a dozen patrol cars circled the park with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Cops burst out of the cars seemingly ready to draw their guns. And not everyone handled the situation the same. Some of the students, just stayed hidden banking on the fact that the police wouldn't find them. Some, came out of the shadows to explain that we were just playing a game. No one was threatened. No one was hurt. But someone, thought it a good idea to intensify the situation by shouting, "Quick, scatter!" causing students to run in a panic in every direction and the police to get even more jumpy than they already were.
Now, I'm not going to tell you which group I was in. I'll let you guess that on your own. But I can say that scattering and running away is NOT a good idea when the police have you surrounded. And to get to the sermon, I can tell you that scattering and running away is NOT a good idea when you're called by God to share your faith. Yet, sometimes we do just that. Afraid that we might be ostracized or picked on because we actually stick around to take a stand for what we believe, we too often act like the disciples did on Maundy Thursday and "Quick, scatter!" when we sense some persecution like a cockroach scatters when the lights come on. But in our text for this morning, Jesus tells us to, "Quick, scatter!" not in the sense that we run away, but that we can quickly scatter the seed of the Gospel and share it with others, trusting that he will make the seed grow. Our text for this morning is taken from Mark 4:26-34…
26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
30 Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
So, I admit it. I'm not best gardener. I don't really have a green thumb. And pretty much every houseplant I've ever owned, I've quickly killed. I think it's because I don't have the patience for it. I mean you have to water the plants pretty much every day. And when you plant the seeds in the garden, it takes a really long time for the plants to grow very big, let alone for you to get a harvest of fruit. Years ago we planted some raspberry bushes. I still haven't had a single raspberry from it.
I like technology where you click a button and see a result. I'm not a farmer. It takes too much patience.
But sadly, I can be the same way with evangelism. I share the Word of God with someone, I spend hours counseling them, I teach them classes, nudge them to come to worship with us, and they come… once… maybe twice.. and I don't see them again.
And so I get frustrated. I want quick results. I want to make the sale and for it to be final. I want… what God has not promised. I'm too often way too impatient.
But that's not how it works. Jesus tells us, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head."
And sometimes, that simple Gospel message just looks so unimpressive, I think it's too small to make a difference. Or I think it will only make a tiny impact in the life of this guy or that gal. I put so little trust in the Word.
But that's not how the Gospel works. Jesus tells us to expect big things: "The kingdom of God… is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
Just look at what the Gospel has done! Planted in uneducated fisherman it became an unstoppable movement in just a few years. Planted in the heart of Saul, the greatest antagonist of the church, he became its biggest protagonist! Planted throughout the centuries, the Gospel has grown into a church with billions who profess to believe in Christ as their Savior. Planted in the hearts of least likely of people, it has grown to be huge. And God can do that just as well today.
So just as a farmer can't plant the seed and expect a harvest the next day, so too, when sharing the Gospel, it may take a while to work. Just as a farmer can't guarantee that every single seed planted will grow fruitful or grow at all, so too, when sharing the Gospel, some will receive it and some will reject it. Just as a farmer doesn't really grow the crop, but only plants the seed, so too, we just plant the seed of the Gospel. God makes it grow.
I'm reminded of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther: "I simply taught, preached and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip [Melanchthon] and [Nicholas] Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything."
But I don't often keep that quote in mind and remember that we simply teach and preach and write and then step back to let the Word do everything. But that's how the farmer does it. He scatters the seed that he didn't make. And he trusts that the seed will grow all its own without his effort or help.
I guess that when I grow impatient after scattering the Word and expect to see immediate results, I show my lack of trust in that Word. "It won't really work. Not this time." Do you ever do the same? Do you ever think that another effort to scatter the Word to a co-worker will only fall on the deaf ears of a rocky path, or to plant the seed of the Gospel in a friend will be worthless since it will only be snatched away by the devil's crows? Do you ever feel like it's just not worth the planting effort because the weeds of this life, the worries and cares and the deceitfulness of wealth and all this life has to offer will only choke out the sprout of faith?
Or perhaps, when given the opportunity to speak of God's grace to others, you don't scatter the seed, but just scatter? Maybe you don't literally duck and cover or sprint away from the cop by the gazebo, but change the subject to something more polite, or just avoid the topic altogether? Do you worry that you might say the wrong thing and so say nothing at all? Do you act like the disciples did on Maundy Thursday and "Quick, scatter!" when you sense some persecution?
You know what you and I deserve for our impatience and our cowardice. We deserve to have God scatter our possessions on the curb as a spouse who's been cheated on scatters the others things across the yard. We deserve to be scattered to the ends of the earth as the Israelites were scattered from their homeland. We deserve to be scattered away from God and kicked out of his heaven to spend an eternity away from him in hell.
But you know what he's done for you. He sent someone—a parent or friend, a pastor or teacher, a book or even a blog—to scatter the seed of the Gospel to you. And God sent the Holy Spirit to plant faith in your heart by that Word. And while the person who shared the Word with you slept or drank their beer, the Word grew in your heart. "All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head."
By God's grace and the Spirit-given faith that's yours, you know of Jesus' work for you: His perfect life lived in your place, the innocent death that he suffered for you, the hell he endured so that you will never have, the full and free forgiveness he won for every sin! You know that when the harvest of Judgment Day comes, you will be gathered into his heavenly barn! The seed has sprouted and grown in you!
And it grows still! So keep watering your faith in the Word! Water it by coming to Bible Class. Give 19 more minutes of your time to fortify your faith! And as your faith grows bigger and stronger, it will produce fruit!
Then you too will sense the urgency that our Savior had when he told his disciples in John 9:4, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." As we mature in our faith we too say, "Quick, scatter! Scatter the seed! Share it with others!" And we won't just say it, but we'll do it, trusting that the Holy Spirit will work faith in some, when and where he pleases.
So invite a friend or neighbor to come to church with you. Post a sermon on your Facebook page. Forward it in an email to a coworker or print it out and give it to your neighbor. Talk to a buddy about your faith, or at least when you're sharing what you did this weekend, mention that you went to church. Scatter the seed! And see what God does with it!
And if you don't see immediate results after you do, don't stress it. Be patient. Keep planting the seed. Keep watering it as you can. God will work faith in some, when and where he pleases. He's promised he will: "The Spirit gives birth to spirit… The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:6,8) But he also promised, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Scattering and running away is still not a good idea when the police have you surrounded. Scattering and running away is still not a good idea when you're called by God to share your faith. But trusting in his promise, we will quick! Scatter! Scatter the seed! Quick! Water it! Trust that God will help it to grow into something huge, even where we least expect it. Plant the word! Scatter the seed! Even if you see no results, trusting that God and others will do their work too, just as Paul professed in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."
So, "Preach you the Word and plant it home To those who like or like it not… [Sow your] reckless love! … [Scatter] abroad the goodly seed! … Though some be snatched and some be scorched And some be choked and matted flat, [sower, sow!] … "Oh, what of that, and what of that?"
Preach you the Word and plant it home And never faint; the Harvest-Lord
Who gave the sower seed to sow Will watch and tend his planted Word.
In Jesus' name dear friends, quick! Scatter! Amen!