Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Pentecost 06/17/2012

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We all have images indelibly etched into our minds of something we have seen in life, whether in person or in pictures.  When we read a book for example and the book describes a certain place in detail, our minds tend to bring up an illustration of something comparable that we have seen and we use that image as the backdrop to the story we are reading. 

While preparing this sermon after reading today’s Gospel and its various interpretations, one of the images that came to mind was from several years back.  The image relates to the part of the Gospel that reads “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground…. and he should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.”  The key word used here is “scatter”, almost like throwing the seeds into the wind and through no effort by man the seed sprouts and grows. 

Well the picture in my mind came from my younger more nimble days that I spent bird hunting in the federal wilderness area called the McCormick Tract, a part of which contains and overlooks the Pesheekee River in northwest Marquette County.  I had followed the path from the trailhead and then took to the rocky bluffs that overlooked the river.  There was one area on a high bluff that overlooked the river, where the view was absolutely spectacular.  I remember sitting there with our dog Emma by a large oak tree, which looked as if it grew right out of the rock.

At some point decades ago a small seed fell into a gap in this rock mass found soil and germinated.  It grew and maybe the rock shifted allowing its roots to spread further and deeper, and by the time it was fully grown, it’s trunk and root systems appeared to be embedded into the rock itself and in places it looked like the tree and its roots had split the rock wider and wider as it grew taller. 

You may have seen something comparable to what I just described.  It’s the power of nature created by God.  We marvel at how something so majestic as a tree could survive and flourish appearing to grow from rock itself without being tended to weeded or watered by man. 

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks his disciples “What is God’s kingdom like?  To what do we compare it?  No one answer will ever exhaust the meaning of this question.  So Jesus uses parables to give us familiar images, to describe something that is anything but familiar to us, that being the kingdom of God.  He compares the kingdom of God to the scattering of seeds, which sprout and grow through no other work of man.  Where the seed itself can be seen as an enduring symbol of life, growing out of what seems not only small, but also dead.

My father in law has been planting a garden since before I became a member of the Sodergren family some 33 years ago.  Back then it wasn’t really a garden it was actually a small plantation.  In the last ten years or so, my son Seth has been helping with the planting and managing of the garden.  Every year a week or two after planting the topic of conversation at the dinner table is something like “the carrots and the radishes are up, nothing yet from the corn or potatoes”.

But neither Jim, Seth nor anyone for that matter can control what happens when that seed is planted.  The gardener and the farmer have little to do with making the seed grow. And that’s what Jesus it trying to say in the first part of this parable.  The kingdom will grow through God’s will, but we are, and will be a part of it.

Seeds scattered implies that the sowing of the word of God is related to the kingdom of God and that the word the sower plants, is the seed of the kingdom itself. 

Like the seed we cannot control what happens to God’s word after it is sown, we just sow it, and wait in peaceful trust that it will grow.  The sower does not make the kingdom happen by force of will.  The kingdom grows organically and as day follows night, God’s hidden and mysterious work in the world and in us will be fruitful.  Jesus talks about the kingdom of God in tangible terms, because even he could not fully explain it because the kingdom is meant to be lived, more than understood.

Jesus wants us to sow God’s word into the bedrock of our very lives.  The impenetrable granite of hate, war, racism, drugs, child abuse, addictions, and even hardened hearts of those against us are not exempt from the growing kingdom of God.  We are called to sow the word of God into our everyday lives and like the tree growing from the rock bluff, the word of God will find a crevice, a small crack in which to settle and grow, and the roots of God’s love will split apart the hatred in our world, and His kingdom will reign. 

Jesus goes on to tell the 2nd parable about a mustard seed.  Still trying to describe the kingdom of God to His disciple’s, He shifts from scattering seeds on the ground to comparing the kingdom to the mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds known to the people in that time. 

Jesus said to his disciples “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God?  Or with what parable shall we picture it?  It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground is smaller than all seeds on earth, but when it is sown it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” 

In the caption on the front of our bulletins Jesus uses a mustard seed to describe the kingdom of God where we would expect something more regal and stately, like a large cedar tree or giant sequoia.  But Jesus in his usual fashion uses something small and unimposing to make his point.

Jesus could be comparing himself to the mustard seed, the very beginnings of the church itself, and the mustard tree to the kingdom of God.  What he started we are called to finish.  Small beginnings can yield great outcomes. 

And so we are summoned to go through our lives sowing the word to our children, family, friends, and especially to those who have not heard the word of God.  The kingdom today is realized in the life of believers like us, while at another level we await the day of glory when the kingdom will come in power. 

Although the church does not officially recognize Father’s Day it does have meaning for today’s Gospel.  Most of us are here because our father’s, grandfather’s, uncles, big brothers, or someone in our family introduced us to a life of faith.  They took us to church or in some way, sowed the seed of God’s word into our hearts.  For me and maybe a lot of others, the seed was planted as a young boy going to Sunday school.  Then came confirmation and from 7th  to 9th grade, there were many other places I wanted to be rather than in confirmation on a Sunday night. 

And like a lot of kids who get confirmed and begin their lives as young adults, I did not attend church regularly.  I later got married, had a family, and drifted away from the church and at some point, the seed that was earlier sowed into my heart brought me back.  I have to admit that watching both my father and father-in-law faithfully attending worship, had a big part in bringing me back, and I thank you both for that.

God’s righteous reign, that being the kingdom, witnessed in the calling of people like us to be with Him for eternity, is seen in the life of Jesus, is in the lives of his disciples, and is seen in the lives of congregations like this and churches everywhere.

The important news is, God is even now gathering a people to share his eternal reign and he is doing this through Jesus.  We as baptized children of God, will share in and be part of that eternal reign, the living kingdom of God.  God will not fail to fulfill the promise of salvation.  It is already coming in this world.

In our 2nd lesson Paul asks us to walk by faith, not by sight.  It’s hard to walk by faith alone and let God’s mystifying work continue in the world.  Open hearts, in the presence of this mystery, and the willingness to be made anew, are all that Jesus asks. 

Even the tiniest seed of faith will suffice.  God will make mighty things of it.  Amen

Jim Bjorne


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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