The Kingdom of God

June 17, 2018 / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost / Deacon Rex Watt

Ezekiel 17.22-24 / 1 Corinthians 5.1-10 / Mark 4.26-34

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +  Amen.

Dear Saints of Redeemer,

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

Our text this morning comes from our Gospel lesson: “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.  With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

What a timely text!  Often I am utterly amazed at how the Lectionary readings assigned for a given Sunday speak to the lives of people, or to the life of the congregation at any given time.  Today’s two parables: the parable of the seed growing; and the parable of the mustard seed, follow after the famous Parable of the Sower which opens chapter 4 in Mark’s gospel.  These are timely for us because many of you may be wondering: “who is going to provide leadership now that Pastor is gone?” “what are we going to do now?” “when are we going to get a new pastor?” “where is the church going to go from here?” “how can we be church without a pastor?” and maybe even “why has this happened to us?”

Some of you may even be a little afraid of where Redeemer finds itself right now.  You’ve never been through a pastoral transition.  You’re not sure whether you want to stay, or go.  Fear is a cruel taskmaster.  Fear paralyzes people.  It makes them irrational.  Take for example someone who is afraid of spiders.  You can point out that none of the spiders in the house are really all that poisonous, but it won’t make any difference.  They will never go to the basement where they once saw a spider scurry under some door.  A co-worker of mine has a fear of ladybugs!  (No offense Mrs. Ladybug…she’s never met you!)  I was amazed at the physical reaction she had one day when she discovered a ladybug on her desk.  She ran out of the office in a panic.  She had difficulty breathing.  There was a look of terror on her face.  She was acting irrational.  She was paralyzed in that she couldn’t work at her desk until it was completely searched to make sure no other ladybugs were hiding anywhere!  Her fear of ladybugs was a cruel taskmaster.

Yes, dear Saints of Redeemer, some of you may be a little afraid of where you find yourself right now.  But I want to give you a word from the Lord.  “God loves you.”  Did you hear what I said?  “God. Loves. You.”

These are words we don’t hear often enough, I’m afraid.  They are most commonly used in an evangelistic sense as “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  But we, the people of God, also need to hear those words.  God does love you.  He has such love for you that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, into the flesh, your flesh, your corrupt sinful flesh, to take on all your sins and nail them to the Cross, for you, so that you might become the righteousness of God.  Paul wrote just a few verses beyond our Epistle reading for today these words, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5.21)

God has such love for you that He brought you into the Holy Christian Church when you were baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  The washing of water with the Word gave you new life.  As Paul wrote, “you are a new creation”.  The Holy Spirit brought this about in your life when you heard the Word that was sown by placing it in good soil.  And this, dear Saints, was none of your doing.  God did it for you.  It is His gift to you, because… He. Loves. You.

Luther wrote in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.  In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.”

So, you may ask, “What does all this have to do with our text today?”  When Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower, He tells his disciples, and us, that the seed which was sown is the Word.  The word of the Gospel.  Not all that was sown produced grain.  But that which did produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.  This seed is the same seed that was scattered on the ground by the farmer which sprouted even though he knows not how.  The kingdom of God grows mysteriously of itself, at its own pace, through the power of the Word.  Sometimes this causes angst among God’s people because they have their eyes focused on the things of this world and not on the things of God.  They think that they have to do something to facilitate the kingdom of God.

The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer is: Thy kingdom come.  The catechism asks, “What does this mean?” And the answer is, “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.”  The catechism goes on to ask, “How does God’s kingdom come?”  And the answer is, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

We learn in this Parable of the Growing Seed exactly what our Catechism teaches us.  Here Jesus speaks of the power and reliability of the gospel message.  All that need be done, in fact, all that can be done is to sow the seed, to proclaim the Word.  A farmer who plants the seed does not understand how it grows.  The power is in the seed.  So it is with the gospel.  It is sown; it sprouts as the Holy Spirit enables; it matures; and it is harvested.

You, dear Saints of Redeemer, have had that seed implanted.  You have been brought to faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit who called you by the Gospel.  When you go home today and pull out your Small Catechism and re-read Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Creed; and his explanation of the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, notice who does all the action!  It is God who acts on your behalf!  He does it all: He calls you; enlightens you; sanctifies you; keeps you; forgives you; gives you the kingdom; all of this is for you, because… God. Loves. You.

You don’t have to be worried about the who, what, where, how or why of where Redeemer finds itself right now.  Those are God’s concerns.  You and I are called, like the farmer, to go about our daily tasks.  To believe His holy Word, and live godly lives here in time.  Yes, that daily living might include sharing the gospel with others, as Peter wrote in 1 Pet 3, Have no fear…nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”  All we are asked to do is to sow.  God will grow the kingdom.

And grow the kingdom He will.  As our second parable tells us God takes that smallest of seeds and grows it into the largest of all garden plants.  So large, that birds come from all over to perch in its branches.

Consider this closing thought…Jesus is the Seed!  He is the Seed of the woman promised in Gen 3.15; he is the promised Seed of Abraham, in whom all nations will be blessed; he is the promised Seed of David whose kingdom will never end.  Jesus is the Seed.  He is the sprig that Ezekiel prophesied would be planted on a mountain height of Israel for you.  He is the Seed that was planted in the earth for you.  He is the Seed that sprouted and came forth from the grave for you.  He is the Seed that ascended to the right hand of God for you.  When He became flesh for you, to take on all your sins, there was only He.  One.  One according to the world insignificant person.  But that small Seed, became 12.  Then He sent out 72.  On Pentecost that little beginning of the kingdom of God became 3,000.  The Book of Acts tells us that small kingdom of God continued to grow.  It multiplied the text says.  And from that small beginning, it has grown to around 2.4 billion Christians today.  Yes, God grows His kingdom.

And you, dear Saints of Redeemer, are part of that kingdom.  Redeemer is part of that kingdom.  So, let God do what God does…take care of His kingdom.  You, dear Saints of Redeemer rejoice.  Rejoice, that…God. Loves. You.  God’s love is perfect, and perfect love casts out fear.  He has promised never to, “…leave you nor forsake you.”  (Heb13.5)  He has also promised to be with you forever, even unto the end of the age.  And that certainly includes where we find ourselves today.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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