Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

A reading from the Gospel of Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 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.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


Today we return to those parables of potential held in tiny packages. We return to parables that remind us of what can happen when a speck of a seed is buried in the dirt and left alone. We return to parables that remind us that much happens beneath the surfaces and behind the scenes while we sleep peacefully.

We live in a culture that demands instant gratification. Many of us find it hard to read a book. I’m hearing more and more people confess that they can’t even read a magazine article—their attention spans are just that fractured. 

We live in a culture where, if it doesn’t happen immediately, people don’t stick around to see what happens.

When I look at the parables of Jesus, I suspect that he was fighting a similar battle. People probably came up to him and said, “How can God be good if there’s so much injustice in the world? Why does God allow the Romans to do that awful thing they did?” 

And every so often, the Kingdom of God breaks through to remind us that the Kingdom of God is not about what happens when we die. The Kingdom of God is breaking through into our present lives, in ways we might not expect. One day there’s a seed, and then seemingly overnight, we see sprouts and shoots.

Parables remind us that God’s way is not the way of the world. But God’s way can lead to a world transformed: flour leavened into bread, seeds grown into orchards, a community where everyone has enough and not a single person goes to bed hungry or lonely.


We’ve all heard the old sayings “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and “The proof is in the pudding.” A more recent, sarcastic one is, “The only exercise they get is jumping to conclusions.” These sayings are modern parables that point to the same thing Jesus is trying to tell us in the gospel lesson.

The last few lines of our reading reminds us that Jesus taught in parables. It’s a word we don’t use much outside of church, so it would be reasonable to think it means something like “stories Jesus told to make a point,” but parables are not unique to Jesus. We all use them sometimes. They are analogies that tell a story, that evoke an image from everyday life to help explain something. 

For example, “The only exercise they get is jumping to conclusions,” reminds us of some person we know who takes a little bit of information and leaps ahead to what they think is going to happen.

In Mark’s gospel, the writer retells a couple of parables that Jesus told about the coming Kingdom of God. The first part of this chapter four is the long and familiar parable about a farmer spreading seed on rocks, and hard ground, and in the briar patch etc. Mark explained that one, then told these two. Why is Mark telling stories comparing the Kingdom of God to the slow and mysterious growth of seed?

Well, by the time Mark wrote these stories down, about 50 years had passed since the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The church had been expecting the return of Jesus and the coming of the Kingdom of God all that time. They prayed for it every time they prayed the prayer he taught them, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” They really, truly expected Jesus to coming walking in, or maybe through, the door any minute, bringing the Kingdom of God with him. And they waited, and they waited, and they waited.

And nothing happened.

And they began to either despair, or to desperately look for signs, signals, or omens that the Kingdom was just around the corner. But they didn’t see much because there wasn’t much to see. Sure, there were little communities of Christ-followers scattered across the Mediterranean from Jerusalem to Rome, but compared to the power and importance of the Empire it was nothing. While thinking about this, Mark began to search among his collection of things Jesus had said, things Peter and the other disciples had told him. Then he wrote down these stories about the Kingdom of God being like farming, like growing a crop.

They are stories that come at the problem from different angles. The first one compares the kingdom to a seed that grows out of our sight, and more importantly, beyond our control and understanding. The sower puts the seed in the ground and waits, and waits, and waits some more. Now, modern farming is a lot more proactive than the ancient techniques, but the basic principle still applies—when it’s all said and done, new life and growth are up to God, not us.


There’s a joke about a group of scientists who had a meeting with God to explain to God that God was no longer needed, they had learned how to create life in the lab without any help from the divine. God said, “Okay, show me.” One of the scientists took out a test tube, bent over and began to fill the test tube with dirt. God said, “Who, whoa, whoa, get your own dirt.”

We in the modern church can get anxious about the future. We can begin to wonder if God has forgotten us. The world around us doesn’t look much like the Kingdom of God. Many of the beliefs and values we share seem quaint and outdated to many of those in control of the world. What is the future of the church, we wonder. What does it mean for us to pray “Thy Kingdom come,” in a world in which the church becomes more and more irrelevant every year?

The seed growing without our control or understanding reminds us that the Kingdom of God is just that—God’s kingdom, not ours. We are not in control, God is. Which is a good thing. Most churches I know can’t even agree on the color of a new carpet without 17 committee sessions and at least two contentious congregational meetings; can you imagine if the shape and future of the Kingdom of God were left up to us. The message is, “Church be about your own business and trust God to about Kingdom business.” According to the story, our business is to be about planting seeds and taking in the harvest. 

In church terms, our business is telling the good news in the world and welcoming folk into the church. The growth of the Kingdom is in God’s hands.


What I’m getting at is that we are the sowers in the story. We sow seeds everywhere, on every terrain, and let God take over from there. How do we sow these seeds?

Seeds are sown by us telling our stories of faith and inviting others to “Come and See.” We have started this focus in our ministry here at GSLC, but this is not a program. This is a DNA change.

Welcoming is a part of our DNA, this has happened over many years and now is just a part of who we are. That is the goal for being inviting also, that as we continue to learn, practice, and tell our own faith journeys…then we invite others to come and join us to check it out.

Simply put: we tell our stories of faith and tell how GSLC has been a part of that journey, then we invite others to come and see…then we get out of the way and let God take over from there!

And why would we do this you may ask? Well because God tells us to do this. And if GSLC has meant so much to your faith and life, why would you not tell others and invite them to be a part of the journey.