PRACTISING PATIENCE!

BEING BANNED IN JESUS’ NAME
June 10, 2024
BREAKING THE RULES
June 28, 2024
BEING BANNED IN JESUS’ NAME
June 10, 2024
BREAKING THE RULES
June 28, 2024

In a world where we are all judged by our efforts, merit, achievements and busyness, the parables we hear today in Mark’s gospel (4:26-34) about the kingdom of God are somewhat shocking!  Perhaps one of the hardest things we ever do, is to trust God and know God’s will is being done, by God.  Our contribution is to express God’s love to everyone, in all our lives.

Everyone who has ever waited for something – a child to be born, a special anniversary, an end to poverty, for world peace – knows about waiting!   We are primed to act, its easier to keep busy, to take charge, to be in the mix, making the change.  And yet, Jesus tells us differently.    He offers three parables about the Kingdom and uses the analogy of sowing seeds, (Mark 4:3-20, 26-34) and the ones we are exploring in this reflection, are the second and third parables (Mark 4:26-34).

The start of these stories today reminds us the scattering of the seed is reminiscent of creation by God, without human intervention; involving the preparation of the field, the sowing of a crop, we know day and night matter, as we wait for the seed to grow.  But Jesus doesn’t see us as the ones who do the planting.  God has created a world filled with life and it has a life of its own created by God.  It will realise its purpose in due time.  This is God’s will being done. 

Our contribution to God’s Kingdom is through our church as the body of Christ.  It is how we see our ministries and the work and care we offer.  We live in God’s way, consistently expressing our love for God and our neighbour, planting seeds, and in times and places and with people where we may never see the harvest.  At other times, we are blessed to reap God’s harvest others have sown.  In both these stories, we see ourselves as active. 

Yet Jesus is telling it differently on this occasion.  We are invited to see God has gone before us to prepare the way for us, God has scattered the seed, ensured it is planted, watered, and growing through the seasons, to come to harvest.  There is also a cautionary note – we are reminded when the grain is ripe, God will go in with the sickle, the good and the bad will be harvested and the harvest is to be brought in.  Our active waiting is being offered patiently, lovingly, justly, humbly and with eagerness as we too are part of the harvest.

For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor. 510)

The next parable also carries its own shock as well.  The Hebrew scriptures were full of imagery about God’s kingdom that recalled the cedars of Lebanon or a towering oak tree.  Somehow Jesus’ description of the tiny mustard seed growing into a shrub is hardly overwhelming if we’re measuring by size or visibility.  Ezekiel 17:23 reminds us:

On the mountain height of Israel, I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit and become a noble cedar.  Under it every kind of bird will live, in the shade of its branches will next winged creatures of every kind.       

Both Luke and Matthew in telling this story try to turn the mustard seed shrub back into a tree.  Mark stays with the shrub, because the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells us, is not the same as the one long awaited by Israel.  The great and mighty cedar has given way in the gospel to a kingdom marked by a Messiah who is identified by lowliness, humility and openness.

The image of the bird nesting, emphasises the hospitality and inclusiveness of the kingdom Jesus is introducing and opening up for all believers.   It’s not a mighty cedar but a spreading shrub, and not a typical image of power and strength.   

The nature of the kingdom of God is mysterious.  God’s grace is working within us, through us and often, despite us.  Let us be clear, God is at work in the world around us.  The church is privileged to work in God’s mission.  We are encouraged to live into the kingdom, know that what we do may seem small and insignificant, and we may never know how many lives we touch, what hope we offer, what transformation God works in due season. 

I think its time to rethink how we as faithful Christians sow the seeds of the gospel.  We are called to share our abundance.  We are called to be peace–makers, and justice bringers, to use God’s blessings for the good of others, to speak of love not fear, hatred and division.  We are not meant to waste our time comparing ourselves with others or with the world’s success stories as this is not how God measures success.  We already know this with Jesus.  He’s not like anything we have previously encountered before.  There is no comparison.

There is instead a call to respond, to live with patience, kindness and faith, with justice and peace in our hearts and wherever we find ourselves to sow the seeds of the kingdom and leave it to God to build the new creation.  In these thorny, uncompromising times, we may feel there is little hope for our church, for our faith or for one another; but that is not the harvest we are entrusted to sow.  We sow the small seeds of hope, love and justice.  We sow, as Paul reminds us and the Corinthians as: 

We walk by faith, not by sight.  (2 Cor. 5:7) 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  (2 Cor. 5:17)

God is sown with small seeds into our own hearts and the hearts of those around us, and we greet with joy the new creation restoring us to the fullness of God’s kingdom.

The Lord be with you.

Reference

Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds]. 2014.  Feasting on the Gospels.  Mark.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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