Kingdom Building based on Mark 4:26-34 by Pastor Richard Mau.
Pentecost 3/Proper 6
June 17, 2012 – Father’s Day
Pastor Richard Mau
Immanuel Lutheran – Des Plaines, IL
Psalm 1 Ezekiel 17:22-24 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Mark 4:26-34
Today is Father’s Day and we thank and praise God for the gift of fatherhood and those gifts he has given us through our fathers and father figures. When one stops to think about it, it is immeasurable what one has received from and through fathers (and mothers alike). It is also interesting to follow a family’s growth from just one father. Take my grandfather, my father’s father. He and grandma had two sons. From those two sons were ten grandchildren. From those ten grandchildren are now twenty great grandchildren and seven more great-great grandchildren. That totals thirty-nine descendants and we are just just beginning that fourth generation. Locally we know the Busse family from the first couple with their six children beginning in 1848 to over 2,500 who gathered for the 150 year reunion in 1998. The family, by God’s creative power continues to grow exponentially into the seventh plus generation.
Today’s readings in Ezekiel and Mark focus on population growth greater than that of a family, but that of a kingdom. Ezekiel’s prophecy points to the Messiah. Jesus at first glance is no different than the humble shoot of a tree but will become the greatest of trees and the nesting place of people from throughout the world. Jesus’ parables tell us how God’s kingdom grows and the extent of his heavenly kingdom. The kingdom of God is Jesus and his saving work that is for all people of all time. The kingdom of God is Jesus’ saving work that includes each one of you and everyone else who hears his word and believes in him.
Jesus’ parables begin with seed. The mustard seed is the smallest of seeds of the herb garden. It is like the humble shoot that Ezekiel prophesies. In both of these instances God is speaking of Jesus who on this earth is no different, in fact, appears less than all others. Jesus’ human being is inconspicuous as compared with other well known figures. His life and death would not be known today if he is of human design alone. But Jesus is also true God. He is the name above all names in heaven and on earth. At his name every knee will bow. Jesus accomplished more than any great ruler or conqueror or scientist or artist. He took all sins on himself to free each believer from the bondage of sin, death and hell. He alone gives eternal life to all who believe on his name for everything from creation to the gift of salvation.
As the two plants provide shelter for birds from everywhere, Jesus provides shelter from Satan and all of his forces to people everywhere and throughout the world. His kingdom is limitless. All who believe in him are brought into his shelter, the comfort of sins forgiven. Psalm 91 reminds that the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. No peril of this earth can separate you from God’s love and his almighty power over eternal death [Romans 8].
All three, the tree sprout, the mustard seed, and the field of wheat grow by a miraculous power and process that is not understood even today with all of the scientific knowledge we have. We can only observe and understand the things around that growth. Nothing outside of the miracle of creation can make the seed sprout and grow. The planter can find the fertile field, prepare the soil, and plant the seed and provide a positive environment. But he cannot do whatever it is that causes the seed to sprout and grow and mature. He cannot predict or cause the exact number of kernels on the stalk or ear. Man can, however, prevent the seed from growing by leaving it sit dormant or cutting it off in one way or another.
That is God’s love to you. That is God’s comfort and strength to you. That is God’s promise to all people. His word is the seed. When the word is planted in the heart, it is not the person who makes that word become faith and grow. It is God himself, the Holy Spirit who works that miracle. Just as the plant owes its growth to the power of God, growth in faith as a believer is by God’s greatest creative power, his grace in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who causes that faith through hearing the word. Paul reminds us that even spreading the word is by the Holy Spirit, “No one can say that Jesus is ‘Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit,” [1 Corinthians 12:3].
In life we meet many other Christians. Each one came to faith and grew in faith in a different field. It is similar to the community of famers where I grew up. Even in that small area were different types of fields and soils and circumstances. Wally’s land included a buffalo wallow and land that was not tillable. In that meadow area he raised breeding cattle and had a dairy herd. Merle’s land was very sandy and cut into with several creeks so he plowed and tilled differently than we did. Bill’s land was more rolling so he contoured his land and included grass waterways to prevent erosion. Gene’s land was on the edge of a glacial lake bed so he tiled differently to properly drain the soil for maximum production. Even on our land were lower areas and come clay hills, each area of each field prepared differently. Yet the seed was the same. Corn grew corn. Wheat and oats grew oats and wheat. Beans grew beans. Pasture and grazing land were good for livestock.
Those farmers today talk about how each one does things. But one does not do exactly as the other does. Each one plants and cultivates and harvests according to his own property’s characteristics. In the world today, each community and neighborhood has different characteristics. But the seed is the same, God’s word. No matter the difference in the fields, the seed sprouted and grew by God’s miraculous power in creation. No matter the difference in the neighborhood, God’s word grows where planted, in the hearts of those who hear his word.
That is how each one here became a believer. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was planted in your heart because God sent someone to do that. The miracle of faith occurred and you grew in faith by God’s power. You alone do not and cannot make “strong faith,” but faith grows as it is nurtured in God’s word, through the waters of baptism and receiving Christ’s very body and blood that won forgiveness of sins and eternal life for you.
My grandfather did not know nor could he have ever known his descendants as of today. He did not know that they would be scattered across six states and five different communities in Illinois. Not one can fathom how extensive God’s kingdom is today let alone when the final harvest comes at the end of time. The love of God in Jesus Christ covers all corners of the earth. The word, the Gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ is to be spread into every neighborhood, every household even here in Des Plaines.
The focus of our church body, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, is established in the gifts and work that God has given each one, each congregation, the church at large. Mission, Mercy and Life Together in Jesus Christ. Today God’s word focuses on mission, how his love was brought to each one and how each one is called to spread the love of Jesus Christ to another. We rejoice and give thanks for his love and gifts that have no limits and have no end.
In Jesus’ undying love. Amen.