26 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 of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds 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 God Goes about His Business
What did you have for breakfast today? A slice of bread? A donut? A sweet roll? A croissant? A bagel? Nothing? Mmm. Well, if you ate something with some kind of grain in it, do you know what it took to get it to the point where you were happy to ingest it?
It took farmers, for sure. They go to a lot of work to raise their crops. Today farmers have machines that cost many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars. They even have tractors that automatically turns corners! Wow! I suppose those farmers could boast how much they put into the harvest, but.... Do you know what it took to get the "thing" you ate for breakfast to you?
Before we answer that question, here's another one. How many of you have planted seeds? Most of us today, if we are not farmers, plant seeds from a packet, carefully placing them into soil, watering them, worrying about them, enjoying the harvest or beauty of the flowers, and what a success! But have you ever broadcast seeds? Taken a handful of them and thrown him on the ground, hopefully prepared to receive seeds? If you haven't planted that way, the first parable today might sound strange.
A farmer, plants seeds and doesn't do anything more. No watering, no fertilizing, no weed pulling, no pesticides, herbicides, no nothing. Why? Because back in Jesus' time and in many places even today, after you broadcast the seed, you can't do anything until the harvest time of one sort or another comes.
Guess who does all of it? God does! The farmer can plant, water, and do all the rest, but the seed, well, it does its own thing. It sprouts, it grows, it blooms, it heads out, it produces the full kernels in the head! Wow! God does it all.
If you are interested at all in how God goes about his business, then take a hard look at how grain grows!
Jesus tells us in both parables he told people that "This is what the kingdom of God is like" and then goes on with the parables. If broadcasting seeds is alien to us, "kingdoms" are even more alien. God's kingdom which we pray will come to all and to us as well in the Lord's Prayer, is the rule of God in this world. The power and sway of God in this world, and in us as well, come as mysteriously as how seeds grow. So how does God go about his business of bringing people into his kingdom, into where he rules and governs our hearts?
There are two aspects we seriously need to keep in mind about this faith, church, membership, evangelism, what have you. 1. You can do nothing! As that great church planter, St. Paul puts it: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase!" You can't get people into God's kingdom; you can't make people believe, you can't argue people into faith and the church (although we sometimes try that), you can no more make a Christian out of someone that you can make a plant grow. There is no "sow's ear into a silk purse" in any way when it comes to how God works. So don't try!
I know many churches have evangelism programs, evangelism directors, mission outreach committees, and other kinds of ways we try to increase membership in the church. We would probably dance in the aisles every Sunday if that would bring people in and get them to join our local congregations (which for many of us are not going up in membership, but down). Now I don't want to discourage you, deflate your outreach, evangelism, mission efforts. But all that effort is non-productive unless...
And that's #2. Nothing happens, unless you plant the seed. No broadcasting of seed; no harvest. Without telling others of how God in Jesus Christ loves them, will take care of them, forgive them, be with them in all circumstances, we are casting nothing into the ground, doing nothing that could possibly give God the opportunity to work in the hearts and lives of others.
It also goes without saying that it is helpful to get the soil ready for planting. I don't suppose that any of you would think of putting seeds out on your concrete driveway and expect them to grow (another parable Jesus told about different grounds). However, all kinds of plants grow in cracks in concrete. That is a lesson we all need to learn: even the hardest head can receive the "seed" of Jesus, if, if, if we are patient and keep on giving a person love, concern, care and attention.
Preparation is truly important. I am fond of saying: don't invite someone to church until you have had that person over for a barbeque. That means that you trust them enough to become friends with them. They may listen to what you say, that is, if you treat them as God treats them: his beloved creation. Always remember that you can prepare all you want, but if you don't plant, nothing will happen.
Have you visited other churches and listened to their worship? I did after I retired and, frankly, I have to tell you, my wife and I wouldn't have joined any of them. Boring, rote, music from the 15th and 16th century, sermons delivered with as much enthusiasm as you would muster going to get a tooth pulled-not conducive to people you know little or nothing about Christ and his church. It takes guts to change, but for the sake of the eternal salvation of one person, what would you do? (I have already spoken about dancing in the aisles).
So we are faced with these two important teachings of Jesus. He does it all; he wants us to plant.
What do we do? What do you do? Most of us sit on our butts and don't cast the seed of the Good News of Jesus to anyone! Horrific, is one word that comes to mind; sinful is the other! Who have you told about Jesus? Perhaps your family, your children, maybe, even a close friend in the church (if you are in a church). Maybe you don't even know the Gospel-you might think this whole Christian thing is about being nice and good, praying a little, giving some, and being in a Bible class of some kind or other.
Where are you in this whole "kingdom of God" thing? In the kingdom? Hoping you are in it? Bewildered by it?
I beg you today, for yourself (be selfish about this), I beg you to know this Jesus who lived for you, died in your place, and gives you life in his undeserved love and his acceptance of you, so that you may again today, if you've never had it before, have the joy of salvation which is living in the "kingdom of God."
God's delightful Word tells us that "faith (in Jesus) comes by hearing (through the ears) and hearing (what?) the Word of God" that's not the Bible. The Word of God is Jesus, the Creator, the one who rescues us literally from the crap we get ourselves into and on top of all that, gives us eternal life. Some of the greatest sowers of seed are not pastors, not teachers, not great Bible scholars who know a lot about Scripture (so does the devil, by the way), but ordinary (are you ordinary?) people who have families, go to school/ work, go on vacations and like to talk to people.
When you sow the seed, you will be asked questions you can't answer? Sure. That's fine. You can get answers from your pastor, if he knows the answer (like when my grandson asked me, when was God born), or simply admit you don't know (how much we don't know these days in the wake of the information explosion!).
Committees don't do it; planning doesn't do it; only God, our almighty powerful God who did away with sin and death and gives us life can make it grow. Make it grow, Lord Jesus! Help us to be greatly, prayerfully involved in your business. The result may be like the ubiquitous mustard plants in Palestine today, but would that not be better than one giant redwood? Amen.