2018-06-17- Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
SEEDS GROW – Automatic & Hilarious!
Camden Urban Promise Sunday
Perhaps it was because he looked in their eyes and they just seemed soooooooo exhausted.
Or maybe it was the look of anxiety in their faces…tears welling in their eyes…and teeth clenched…
Or was it the look of perplexment (hullo, anybody home?)….there’s just no gas in the tank, or neuron-firing power in the brain cells to comprehend any more data…
—- No, I’m not talking about being the parent of child during the last week of the school year! Ha!
I’m talking about Jesus’ disciples…these first followers who have been frantically and fantastically following Jesus as he began his “I’m fulfilling the times and the kingdom of God has come near” good news message through the streets, towns and biways of the Judean countryside.
They’ve seen the heavens part…heard the Spirit speak, doves descending…they’ve left their steady jobs and family ties to follow this upstart preacher… they’ve seen the sick and demon-possessed healed and put in their right minds… they’ve even seen Jesus stand up to the biggest bullies in the capital city… Herod’s henchmen…and the Religious ruling class…and so far he had got away with it! Putting them in their place, telling them that they are doing the work of Satan! Whoa, whoa, whoa!
But for the followers of Jesus, all this drama and upheaval has given them a bit of heartburn…or the beginnings of an ulcer in the pits of their stomachs…and so maybe it was that look of forlorn-ness that prepared the way for today’s 2 seed stories…
Jesus looks with compassion on his people and says…
“Let me tell you about the Kingdom (and the dream) of God…it’s as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day,
and the seed would sprout and grow.”
I imagine the bewildered, weary disciples…breathing huge sighs of relief.
Sleep?!? Could it be!?
Even while we sleep…the way of God…the way of healing, compassion and mercy…grows?
And I hope that for us…end of the church year (school year) disciples here at FBC…we, too, hear this as good news?
The next phrase in Jesus’ parable contains our “word of the week” for our “greek geek word bank.” >> v.28 The earth produces “of itself”… this “of itself” phrase is the greek word “automate” where we get our English word “automatic” from… Jesus says “the seed grows automatically!”
Not by human ingenuity, prodding or intervention. The seed…and hence, the kingdom reign of God grows automatically…even while we sleep.
Can I get a witness? Hallelulah!
And the 2nd parable that Jesus lays alongside the lives of his hearers,
resonates with the first.
“What else shall we say about the kingdom of God?
It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground,
Is the smallest of all seeds…
Yet when it grows up, it becomes the greatest of all….
–The disciples of Jesus, who have taken a few deep breaths and are in a more relaxed state of mind… now smile…and chuckle.
Shrubs!?! Our ancestors would talk of God and his great power…and the mighty cedars of Lebanon…and you talk of mustard seeds and shrubs?
“Yes! The greatest of all shrubs puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
—-ahhhhhhhhh…..nesting……in the shade.
Now you’re talking Jesus! Huzzah! Sleep … nesting …. Shade.
* * * * * * *
We can read ahead and recognize that the future is not a Mediterranean all-inclusive retreat for these first followers of Jesus…
Can we pause with and embrace this good news today?
>> SEEDS grow automatically
>> SEEDS grow hilariously
This is not Jesus letting his hearers off the hook, saying, “just coast from here.”
But it is Jesus saying that he’s got it ALL under control…between him, his Father, the Holy Spirit…the COMMUNITY OF GOD has got it covered.
One of my favourite Eugene Peterson quotes:
“The world doesn’t need more of you…it needs more of God!”
Now, Eugene goes on to say that there are things we do and say, and that’s all fine…but the first word…and the first hopes, and the first confidences…are in God…not our human efforts.
AND THE MUSTARD SEED…is a comical (shall we say, hilarious?) image.
These first hearers would be guffawing at this story like someone telling us that the kingdom of God is like an award winning “Yards in Bloom”…dandelion garden.
For us, the dandelion is a nuisance. Gets everywhere! And is a pain in the rump to contend with and control.
So it was with the 1st century mustard seed plant.
But this silly, intrusive, gotta-laugh-at-it weed displays the way of God in the world.
A silly, invasive plant that upends the powers. Breaks through cracks and crevases.
Forces its way into places where it is unwelcome and unwanted.
And brings….shelter. Sanctuary. Hospitality. A place of welcome.
It’s hilarious and ridiculous…and that is exactly what makes it such good news for weary, downtrodden disciples.
God’s reign, kingdom way…grows while we sleep.
God’s reign, kingdom way…grows like a weed, and eventually becomes a 10-foot high weed of welcome! Sheltering, providing refuge and reprieve.
Camden team…I hope you can carry this good news with you…
*your efforts won’t make Jesus’ reign any bigger, better, smaller, worse…
*but…your efforts…as they are offered with a smile, a grin, laughter and a bit of a tone of “this seems ridiculous”….is taken by God and turned into a way of shelter, welcome and sanctuary for all who cross your paths with in the days ahead.
Let’s continue to lay them alongside of our lives…and see and sense what the Spirit might be bringing to life as we seek to be bearers of Jesus’ good, sheltering, welcoming & gracious ways in these days.
>>> and not only in these days…but in these summer nights!
…While we are tucked in our beds and fast asleep – –
The Kingdom reign and the dream of God grows…
Thanks be to God!