“The Seed Will Grow.”
Scripture lesson: Mark 4:26-34, June 13th, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Read Statement of Faith
“Jesus begins his discussion about the kingdom of heaven with a parable about a mustard seed. Our reading is from the gospel according to Mark, chapter four, verses twenty-six thru thirty-four.”
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 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.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
“Having listened to the words of Jesus, let us now ponder what the parable’s meaning is and how we can use it in our quest for a closer walk with Christ.”
“The Seed Will Grow.”
Where is the kingdom of God? Some say it is way up in the heavens; others say it is here amongst us. What do you say? Why? What led you to that conclusion? Is this what Jesus said when he walked the Earth? What is Jesus quoted as saying about heaven? Our parable from the teachings of Jesus compares the kingdom of God like the growing of a tiny seed. The parable uses only earthly parallels to speak of heaven, as Jesus creates a plausible way to understand how something as tiny as a Mustard Seed can grow and grow. Therefore, we must begin our process of discernment from the bases of this analogy. We must not neglect the analogy of the farmer, in the first few verses of our reading, which speaks to our lack of understanding on the process of how the earth and seed intermingle and produce a crop of food, grain which shall nourish the needs of animals and humans such as ourselves. One of our many challenges within this lesson is to consider how these two analogies help us understand the concept of heaven and perhaps give us a clue as to where it does or shall exist.
Let us first consider the reference to the farmer planting the seeds in the earth. It is a common understanding, so let us not spend a great deal of time here, other than to say a good farmer knows how to prepare the soil and plant the seed. Then comes the important follow-up. It is unsaid here, but clearly the farmer will need to watch after the plant, which ultimately will spring up – as soil nurtures the seeds – and the heavens send down the rains – to give it water – which is needed to cause the process of new life and ultimately new growth, within the seed, which shall cause its growing process to expand. Note how Jesus gives all the credit to the growth of the seed coming from Mother Earth. The farmer, in the parable then harvests the grain. When we look for the parallel meaning in our own lives, we may perhaps think of how a child is born, through the seed of its parents and how the parents become like the farmer watching after its welfare. Giving the child the nourishment, which it needs through the incubation and development period within the mother’s womb, until nature takes control of the process, and the baby is born into the world, breathing in its own air, and taking its nourishment from the grain and wheat, and the sustenance of Mother Earth – on its own power. Whether the seed be of grain or of human form, the farmer, the parent is given many tasks which must be accomplished before the fruit of the seed is grown and matured enough to become an entity unto itself; ready to begin the process of moving into the next roles, the next task within the cycle of life.
In our parable the seed becomes grain which is destined to become a form of sustenance to nourish the needs of humans and animals alike. But to do so, there shall be many stages of nurturing, harvesting, and processing by the farmer before it shall reach its destination. In the case of the abundance needed to make the time of harvest to be ‘profitable’ the farmer will have had to protect, nourish, and cultivate the crop for many days, weeks, and months. The farmer also knows, all too well, without the help of Mother Earth and Mother Nature, the crop can wither and die or become a very low yield. Humbling realities for the farmer to be sure. In our human realm we are faced with much the same dilemma, we must trust in God’s grace that the miracle of life, of a newborn child, will be free of deformities and disease, which does occur… and when it does, the parents will be forced to dig deep into their faith and trust in God… to become more aware of the inner beauty and nature of the child. Perhaps, therefore Jesus speaks of how the mustard seed, a tiny, tiny, seed ‘grows’ into a large bush were many of God’s creatures can nest and be sheltered from the scorching sun and the pounding rains. Jesus wants us to appreciate how useful to the needs of others the seed has grown into – in its maturity! In the same way, as we have grown from the seedlings we once were, God has endeavored to mold us and shape us into being like the grown bush of a mustard seed – becoming conscious of the needs of others in maturity.
When we speak of heaven what do we envision? Is it not a place where kindness, compassion and love abound! A sanctuary where people are accepted as they are and for who they are. Is it not a place where they, people of every race, creed, and color, can cultivate their true natures and grow to be like the mustard seed; a place where others can find comfort, peace, and the opportunity to be all that they can be! Heaven and Hades, though there is a chasm, a valley between them; yet they still coexist here on Earth, in our own communities right now. To speak of heaven as a far-off place, a place where we may ‘one day’ find ourselves is no solace, nor comfort to the mother or father of a family besieged with every possible misfortune and calamity. They know it no longer matters how they got there, nor does it matter the promises at the end of their earthly life… What is important to those who are caught up in the hellish predicaments’ that life can and does dish out… is what happens next in their world. Shall it be the eviction notice or the local utility company shutting off the power to their home… because they are three months behind in their payments. Heaven to such a couple would be a helping hand from someone, a church, a neighbor, anyone who might bring a moment of respite and relief in their ‘tormented’ life situation.
In a perfect world, in a perfect parable, the answers to life’s woes would be rectified and peace ‘among all people’ would spring forth like the bounty of an abundant crop of grain, or the ‘full and comforting branches’ of a mustard seed in full bloom. In the world in which we now find ourselves, we must cling to the hope and direction given to us through these ancient words attributed to the teachings of Jesus. ‘Heaven is a place where the needs of others are placed above the needs of the self.’ Farmers respond to the needs of their crops in good weather and bad; even when the drought of the scorching sun is overtaken by the rains, that come too abundantly, and flooding begins to erode the sanctity of the roots of crops in the fields. No, a farmer sets aside his needs for the needs of the new crop, for if he does not, the crop will either wither or die, or be overtaken by flood waters; or be eaten by all the scavengers that lurk in the cover of darkness or come calling in disguise of their real intent! Yes, the true farmer knows the pain and despair of ‘hell on earth’.
Jesus is helping clarify that heaven is near at hand. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” /Matthew 3:2b/ John the Baptist is quoted as saying these words while preparing the way for the coming of Christ Jesus. The man from Nazareth born of Mary, who did come to John to be Baptized, as his ministry began. John’s words clearly infer that the coming of the Son of God, coming to the world stage as the Son of Man, was synonymous and tantamount, with the coming of ‘Heaven on Earth’. Over the years, as I have been privileged to be with folks as they approached the gates of Heaven, I have seen a spark, a glimmer of their essence which suggested to me they had found peace in the loving arms of the Spirit of God, even as they passed from this realm to that of the other, heaven itself. However, you and I interpret events that simply have no rational explanation, we can be filled with hope of the truly unknown. We are here, on Earth of this – we are sure. We also, have been blessed with the personal faith with which we have each been gifted, and as we have cultivated ‘even the tiniest seed of faith’ a great many of us have seen it grow and blossom. Prayerfully, we shall be good ‘farmers’ and we shall nurture and cultivate the seeds of faith… which others have planted in us. Surely the Spirit of God has planted at least one small seed, small like a mustard seed in size, one small seed of faith within each of us – within we the “children of God.”
To truly answer the age-old question of “where exactly is Heaven?” one must first define what Heaven is. Surely it needs to be the opposite of Hades, does it not? Absolutely it will not, it cannot be a place where fear and hatred thrive. Assuredly, Heaven will not condone inequality, racism, nor bigotry of any flavor to exist! Rather, Heaven shall be a place where the attributes of the man from Nazareth grew; as his attributes were used as seed to grow new gardens. Gardens where kindness, compassion and love are cultivated; where a sprinkling of Jesus’ forgiving nature was spread like seed, to be nurtured and loved so that it would grow and grow.
Hell is said to be a place where those condemned to its inferno will not know peace nor rest, nor justice, nor compassion. Whilst we have breath – let us strive to pray for and speak up for those who are so judged! Yes! Yes, we shall find Heaven – if we but follow the teaching of Jesus’ parable, whereas we shall endeavor to plant seeds of true love, compassion, and kindness; then nurture them while praying for God’s grace and mercy,
that they might grow and grow.