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Who Will You Serve? “Planting The Seeds”

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Who Will You Serve 3

Mark 4:26-34

June 16, 2024

Fireworks.  I think most of us enjoy watching or setting off fireworks.  But if you do not enjoy watching them or setting them off, I guarantee you will probably hear them being set off in a few weeks when our nation celebrates the anniversary of its independence.  Isn’t it amazing how something so small – a firecracker, which is about 2 inches long, and a bottle rocket, which is about a foot long, can be heard and seen for miles?  In our Gospel lesson for today Jesus speaks of a mustard seed – something so small that if I were to hold one up here in my hands none of you would be able to see it, not even those of you sitting in the front row.  I even tried to project a picture of a mustard seed in a person’s hand that I found on a Google search this week, and I still couldn’t see it.  And yet, Jesus said in Mark 4 that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  Now that might not make any sense to us, especially since we are not farmers, but it probably did not make any sense, initially, to the large crowd of people gathered to hear Jesus teach, even though many of them may have been farmers.  How could an insignificant, unimpressive, tiny seed – that is not even large enough for me to show all of you – be like the Kingdom of God?

It’s important to understand that the Kingdom of God to which Jesus referred is a reference to Himself and His saving work on the cross.  Scripture tells us that when Jesus taught or healed people, at times He would tell them that the Kingdom of God was in their midst or the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  As people heard this I’m sure they wondered, “Really?”  Because just as a mustard seed doesn’t look very impressive, Jesus did not appear to be very impressive or capable of doing anything great.  In fact, at first glance, this “Kingdom” did not seem like much of a kingdom at all.  Jesus did not have any armies; He hadn’t conquered any lands.  All He had were these 12 ordinary looking guys.  And this Kingdom included some of the least desirable people of society: sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors.  I guess you might just go ahead and invite anyone you meet into it –and that’s what Jesus did. Some Kingdom this was- insignificant, unimpressive, and by all appearances, it seemed incapable of doing anything great.

But that was the point Jesus was making when He compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed.  Though that seed was insignificant, unimpressive, and seemingly incapable of doing anything great, from it would come a tree that could be 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide – large enough for living creatures to make a home and find protection in it.  And so it is with the Kingdom of God.  It is very important for us to remember this lesson, because not much has changed to this day.

The Kingdom of God is still among us.  Jesus is here in this place and He is just as active today as He was when He healed the sick, calmed the storms, and fed 5000 people.  Now, while we cannot see Jesus, He comes to us in His Word that is read and preached to bring people to faith.  He is here in the waters of Baptism that cleanses us from our sins; and He is here in the bread and wine of Communion to strengthen our faith, forgive our sins, and give us life.

And yet, to the naked eye, this Kingdom of God doesn’t really look like much.  Bread is just bread; wine is wine; and water is water.  How could these things and the Word of God have any real power in them?  But Paul said in our second lesson for today, “We walk by faith, not by sight,” meaning that our faith helps us to see what our eyes cannot.  Bread, wine, and water by themselves are not anything special, but our faith tells us that when these things are used with the Word of God, there is great power in them, because God is there working in them.

It’s easy to look at our culture and think that the Kingdom of God is not very effective.  After all, more and more people appear to be turning away from the church today as they don’t find it very helpful, while sporting events are packed with crowds and enthusiasm on a Sunday.  Parents complain that their children’s behavior did not seem to change when they brought them to church, so why bother?  It’s a lot of work to get the children ready for church and there are many other things that families can do together on a Sunday morning that are easier.  So when we choose to serve God by being in worship, caring for others, and inviting others to join us, are we making a difference?  Is our witnessing really working?  It’s at times like these that some Christians begin to think that the Kingdom of God is about as significant as a mustard seed.

This is why we need to remember Jesus’ words.  The Kingdom of God, He said, is like a mustard seed.  It may appear to be small and powerless, but when that seed is planted, it can grow to become a very large tree.  Growth in the church may not always happen as quickly as we would like or it may not always be in line with our expectations, but growth in God’s Kingdom is inevitable where the Word of God is preached, taught, lived, and shared.  After all, just consider the ministry of God’s Church.  It was started on the other side of the world with 12 ordinary guys telling people what they had seen in Jesus.  And as a result of God working through these 12 uneducated men, ministry that was started in a small country, grew into churches like ours today.  That is an amazing miracle of God.

Like the mustard tree that provides a nesting place for the birds of the air, God gathers people from all over the world.  Ezekiel, when referring to the Kingdom of God, said in our Old Testament lesson that “…birds of every kind will nest in it.”  And at times some of the most unlikely birds have come to nest in God’s visible kingdom, that being the Church here on earth.  In fact, when we think about our own lives, I know all of us could easily say, “It is only by the grace of God that I am here at Holy Cross.”  Many of you have powerful stories as to how God brought you here or how unlikely it is, based on your past, that you are involved in the ministry of this church today.  Two weeks ago we celebrated with 13 teenage students as they publicly confirmed their faith in Jesus and promised to be faithful to Him, even to the point of death.  Just imagine how many of those students will go on to serve our God as pastors, missionaries, Directors of Christian Education, or as leaders in the church?  That may not seem likely to them right now, just as it did not seem likely to me 45 years ago when I publicly confirmed my faith in Jesus before the people of my church that God would call me to serve as a pastor.  But He did.  All of us are living miracles of what God can do.

And we all have a role to play in this ministry of God’s Kingdom.  When the seed of the Gospel of Jesus is planted in the hearts of people through the love you show to them, through your invitations to come and join us for worship, family night, or Vacation Bible School, or through the forgiveness you show, a few or some or maybe many will come and experience God’s love and will grow in their relationship with God.  Your actions may not seem like much, in fact they may feel as small as a mustard seed, but at that moment they definitely will cause great rejoicing in heaven.

If you don’t think God can use you to serve Him and others in His Kingdom here in this place, then think again.  Think about those 12 ordinary disciples simply telling people what they had seen in Jesus.  Or think about this church and your role in this church.  Eighteen years ago this weekend we celebrated the opening of this facility.  250 members, adults and children, prayed, and told others, and made financial commitments in order for this place to be built so we could reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus through a variety of new ministries.  And since that time, I know God has been working through all of you, whether you’ve been here for one month, or 10 years, or 18 years, because we are now a church with 700 members.  If that is what God can do through us in just 18 years, just imagine what this church will look like in another 18 years with just a mustard seed faith, if we continue to choose to serve our God by planting the seeds of the Gospel of Jesus in the lives of people in this community.

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