Rev. Paula J. Elizabeth June 17, 2018
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, the planter 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 the planter goes in with a sickle, because the harvest has come. Mark 4:26-29
Jesus loved to speak in parable. Jesus tells parables not for explanation but for exploration – for growth and development. Parables are useful when the truth you want to share is challenging – challenging not just to hear, but also to comprehend and believe.
A parable takes time to hear, because we hear it not so much with our ears, nor comprehend not so much with our brain, but with our whole heart, spirit and soul.
We hear it initially, in the moment. We give it some thought. We wonder about it. We think perhaps we’ve grasped it’s meaning. And then time passes. And then lots of time passes, maybe months or even years, and all of a sudden the truth Jesus meant to convey strikes home! It is almost overwhelming the stunning reality of the message.
The parable of the planter and the seed is no different. I’m still reveling in it’s full mystery. For me Jesus’ parables change meaning as I change, as I grow, as my faith develops. Much like the seed that is planted and grows – who knows how!
Yet, that is the essence of the parable itself – who knows how, it is all mystery. Growing and coming to maturity takes an enormous amount of time, and an even more enormous amount of assistance, support, encouragement, watering, nurturing.
Ross and I went to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” late yesterday afternoon. If ever there was a nurturer, supporter, encourager, and lover of children it was Mr. Rogers. If ever there was a father figure to be had, it is Mr. Rogers.
Every child, every one is special! He addressed every challenging issue that could be, including race and homosexuality – at a level the least amount could hear and understand.
Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who’s call was to children’s ministry. He did it with heart, and great faith. A faith that continually grew and developed and blossomed.
This parable speaks about the wonder of that kind of faith. The kind that is needed for harvest. Given the state of the world today, we need a lot more Mr. Rogers!
And so this parable might be about the wonder and specialness of us today. There is that spark of the Divine in each of us, coming into fullness mysteriously with the guidance and assistance of all that touches our lives.
Our parents, guardians, extended family, friends and neighbors, teachers as well as strangers along the way – all mold who us and who we grow into being. That along with situations and events that affect us, and of course.
All of who we are can be perceived as part of this parable. The whole world could be the harvest – our world. Goodness that is a tough one to comprehend in its present state. Or is it? What if we really had the faith of a Mr. Rogers to help the world turn, from what it is to a more loving and faith-filled globe?
Listen to our second parable:
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 smaller 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. Mark 4:30-32
This second parable speaks another truth. Perhaps it is about the mystery of small things growing into grand ones. Or maybe, just maybe it’s really about allowing Spirit to penetrate our spirit and take over our lives calling us to grow and develop in faith and courage. Just imagine all of us out there planting more seeds in hopes of changing our world for the better. Let’s be invasive! Let’s all be a mustard seed!!!
A Mustard plant, after all, is a lot less like a flowering shrub that we might plant around the edges of our property as an accent than it is an invasive weed. It is something to keep out of our garden and lawn because it runs amok easily, gets out of hand, and nearly takes over whatever ground it infests.
So also it is with the Holy Mystery of faith.
It’s what creates hope, leads people to change their lives, to share the Good News, and to leave behind their old ways of being. It can be dangerous, because we just don’t know where it will take us or what we will do when it seizes hold of us.
Through these parables Jesus reminds us that a new way comes mysteriously. It comes with faith. It overturns the things that the world wants us to believe are insurmountable and creates a new way . . . and a new future.
Unfortunately, we tend to go into our head and intellectualize these parables. We ask the questions: How does the reign of God grow? How does the kingdom of God sprout and flourish in the life of an individual person, or a church, or in the community and world around us? If only we could figure that out, we could break it down into a process and a strategy like a business venture.
We have a penchant for domesticating miracles.
Again, Jesus tells parables not for explanation but for exploration. Not for answers but to engage the imagination, to dream dreams and have visions. Not for certainties about faith but for discoveries about how faith works, for willingness to have faith itself.
That was the genius of Mr. Rogers. He met all others, children and adults, with love, kindness, and faith in their specialness. He saw people as gifts to the world. He listened. His way was one of quiet observance, silence, and caring.
That, my friends, is the way of Jesus, the reign of God, the realm of the Sacred on Earth. It cannot be boiled down into a process that can be understood.
And yet we have a part in it – a huge part. We have our work to do. However, the harvest is mystery, Holy Mystery. And there’s a lot of waiting and waiting and waiting before the harvest is ripe.
Picture raising a child, or a pet, or creating a piece of art. It is not done in a moment. None of it. And it all takes lots of patience, love and faith it will all work out.
There is a rhythm to all this: a rhythm of life becoming which begins with scattering the seeds of life, maybe small seemingly insignificant acts or deeds in seemingly insignificant ways or places. Or perhaps a large scattering of seeds in many places. And then we wait . . . until Spirit blows through, until harvesting time.
Whatever has occurred, it is a gift of life, a gift of creation that continues from one harvest to another – from one gift and giver to another. May we see it as a continuum of life and be open to the flow and weaving of Holy Mystery. Amen.