June 17, 2018  Pentecost 4  Mark 4:26-34  J.D.Roekle

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. 

How Does God’s Garden Grow?

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          How does your garden grow?  If you are a gardener, by now you probably have your seeds, seedlings, or plants in the ground.  How is it going, or how is it growing?  Are you seeing the seeds pop out of the ground yet, or are you seeing visible growth on the plants? 

          Of course, there’s another way to think about the question ‘how does your garden grow’.  How is it even possible for a seed or plants to grow and even produce vegetables?  Of course, a plant needs fertile soil, water, and sun in order to grow. 

          God has a garden too.  In our text, Mark calls it ‘the kingdom of God.’  The kingdom of God is different than the garden in our backyard.  The kingdom of God isn’t visible.  It is within you.  Inside the hearts of people.  So how does God’s garden grow?  Since we can’t visibly see it, we can’t really answer that so much from the standpoint of results.  We can, however, see the evidence of its growth.   The words before us today help us to understand how it is possible for God’s garden to grow.  God uses a powerful tool to make it grow.  He uses his Almighty Word.  Because it is God himself who is making his garden grow, the results are incredible.  

          The Lord teaches us some powerful truths about his garden or his kingdom by speaking in parables.  The first parable went like this:  “This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” 

          A seed doesn’t look like much.  But it truly is a marvelous thing.  You put it in the ground and cover it with soil and after a few days it begins growing.  The soil, the sun and water are all important to the health of the growing seed.  But what is it that makes the seemingly dead seed grow?  The power is found in the seed itself, isn’t it?! 

          Jesus is here comparing the seed to the Word of God.  At face value, it may not look like much.  The Bible may not look any different than any other book.  And yet it has power beyond comprehension. 

          Why are you here today?  The Word of God draws you here.  Think about how that is true from the start.  Your heart was dead to God at birth.  There was no inclination in you that would have drawn you to God.  In fact it was just the opposite.  You are born with a desire to oppose God and genuinely hate him. 

          Enter in God’s Word into your life and heart through the water of Holy Baptism.  It is there that your sinful, selfish, hostile to God nature was drowned.  And it is there that a new self arose in you.  One that loves God and wants to please him.  How was that possible?  The seed of the Word of God was planted in your heart and it took root and began growing. 

          Now you know that your sinful nature wasn’t wiped out.  You continue to do things wrong.  You continue to act out against God at times.  Your thoughts and words aren’t always pure. 

Because that is the case, we need to remember that the Old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance.  That means a daily examination of your heart to see what evil lies there.  It means being honest with yourself and realizing that you have not and cannot live up to God’s standards.  It also means turning away from that sin and turning toward God to receive his loving pardon once again. 

God planted faith in us through the seed of the Word.  It is through that same Word that he makes his garden, his kingdom grow in your heart.  What happens when you neglect your garden?  When you fail to water or weed it?  The good plants soon die out.  So it is with God’s garden.  God is never a neglectful gardener.  We are the ones who are neglectful.  We are the ones to fail to listen to God’s Word which alone can make us grow.  We sometimes need to have a break from things.  From work, from school, or even perhaps from family.  Don’t ever let Satan convince you that you need a break from God’s Word.  That’s like being convinced that we need a break from air. 

How does God’s garden grow?  Through his powerful Word.  God’s Word is so powerful that it has worked wonders in your heart.  But it hasn’t worked in your heart alone.  It is so powerful that it has created a bountiful garden, a vast kingdom. 

Jesus pictures that vast kingdom in the second parable of our text: “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” 

The mustard plant in Israel can grow to heights of up to ten to fifteen feet.  It can grow to be twice as big as average humans.  So big in fact that even birds can “camp out” in its shade.  This is quite incredible when you realize that the mustard plant comes from such a tiny seed.  The seed is often about 2 millimeters in diameter.  Stack two pennies on top of each other, and the thickness of those 2 pennies is about 2 millimeters. 

Now think about God’s garden, the kingdom of God.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, the kingdom of God didn’t appear to be too much.  After all there wasn’t much to see.  There was no plot of land allotted to God’s kingdom.  There was no army defending it.  In fact, there was really no way of seeing who all was a part of the kingdom.  Jesus’ followers had largely scattered and even went underground due to persecutions. 

That’s what the kingdom of God looked like to human eyes.  But take a look through God’s eyes.  Those earlier followers that scattered and went underground spread the message of Jesus Christ all around to at least three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. 

Today, the kingdom of God has found its way to virtually every corner of the globe; to practically every country on the face of the earth.  Think about that a moment.  The mighty Roman Empire that ruled most of the civilized world in Jesus’ day is only a memory.  And yet the kingdom of God continues to flourish.  And it will flourish until Jesus returns and makes his kingdom visible as he destroys the earth and creates a new heaven and a new earth for his kingdom where multitudes will forever praise him. 

And it all started with a tiny seed.  The seed of the Word of God.  The Gospel that worked its way into countless people.  The same Gospel that has seen its way into your heart and mine. 

God’s garden, his kingdom, is still growing, and he uses you and me to do that.  And the tool that he gives us is the same one he has used throughout the ages.  The seed.  The Word of God. 

Do you ever find yourself doubting the power of God’s Word by putting limitations on it?  Do you every find yourself saying something like, “If I could speak more fluently maybe I could convince my neighbor to come to church.”  First of all, we should be concerned with bringing our neighbor into God’s kingdom.  Secondly, no matter how eloquently a person might speak, he cannot bring anyone into God’s kingdom.  It is our job to plant the seed.  To use the powerful Word of God.  The Word alone make God’s garden grow.  Don’t doubt its power.  Use it as you talk to those around you concerning the thing which matters most: the needs of their soul. 

Are you looking forward to later in the summer when you are able to harvest your garden or when your neighbor who gives you produce harvests his?  As your mind takes you to that garden, consider God’s.  How does God’s garden grow?  Through the Word of Christ alone.  God’s garden grows as the message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection works on hearts.  As you soak in the summer’s sun, soak in that Word which brings your heart all that it needs to flourish as your faith in Christ grows.  And then use the Word to plant seeds in the hearts of others who need it, so that God’s garden will grow there too.  Amen.