Sunday, June 17, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Any farmer knows that a lot of hard work goes into getting a really good crop. Even an average gardener knows, it’s hard work. You have to get the soil ready before you even plant the seeds – tilling, and fertilizer, and then there’s all that care after the seeds are in the ground – they need water, and sunlight, and constant care.
It requires diligence and careful attention to make sure that insects, pests or other creatures don’t kill the seedlings before they have a chance to get strong and mature. The plants need someone to look out for them otherwise the whole crop could be lost. And nature plays a part as well. Too much rain and certain crops can rot right in the ground. Not enough rain and the plants could wither and die. And let’s not even mention a big threat like a hail storm that can destroy a crop in a matter of minutes.
So when Jesus told the parable comparing the kingdom of God to someone who scatters the seed on the ground, the disciples took notice and were more than a little shocked. Most of them were fishermen, but they knew that farming was more than just scattering the seeds on the ground. Throw the seeds and let the wind carry them away? They had to be carefully placed. Didn’t Jesus know this was hard work?
And let’s not forget about the weeds! No one who is planting a crop of any kind wants to deal with weeds. For those living in the Ancient Near East the mustard plant was such a weed. It came from a tiny seed and could easily slip in among the other seeds without being noticed. This tiny seed could cause a great deal of trouble. Once it started growing, this weed would spread was almost impossible to get rid of. The tiny seed would produce a bush that could grow pretty large – sometimes 10 feet – and take over everything.
We could compare it to the dandelion today. While dandelions don’t grow that large, they do spread out of control. No one seems to want them as they take over everything and the more you try and get rid of them the more they seem to come back. People go to great lengths to eliminate them, particularly with pesticides, but the dandelion is a resilient force of nature. One small seed and the whole process begins again.
Yet there are hidden blessings in these “weeds.” Dandelions have been used for centuries to treat liver ailments. The leaves can be eaten in salads, and made into tea. Their greens also contain many vitamins including C, B6, thiamin, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. So while they may seem like a useless weed, their benefits are many. How often do we dismiss something as useless, or unwanted without knowing the hidden benefits or blessings that they offer?
Yes, the mustard plant was considered a weed, but it’s size could provide shade and a home for the birds to make nests in. Yes, the dandelion can be a nuisance, but it can also be a source of healing. Many of the struggles we endure in life also contain gifts and blessings that we can learn from to help us become better people. God does not give us these trials, but God can transform them. God can give us the strength to draw from these times of challenge resources that make us more loving and compassionate towards others. God’s blessings are often hidden among the weeds. So all this planning, all this controlling to make life produce the way we want it to, and creation happens –even while we are sleeping. God’s kingdom, God’s reign, cannot be stopped.
It reminds me of a wonderful woman I met many years ago. Her name was Josie and she loved to grow tomatoes. Even as her health declined, she would say come and look at my tomatoes! We’d slowly walk out to the patio area where she had a few small pots of tomatoes and her face would just beam with pride. “Look at how these tomatoes are growing!” Yes, she gave them some water, but she Josie didn’t take any credit for the growth of these tomatoes. She gave all the credit to the tomatoes themselves and to God. “The earth produces of itself.” Josie understood exactly what Jesus was talking about in today’s parable. And that was reason for her to celebrate and give thanks.
It’s reason for us to celebrate and give thanks too. That’s the good news! The kingdom of God is uncontrollable and unstoppable. If the kingdom of God relied on our power it would cease to exist. We are sinful broken people. We make mistakes, and hurt one another, whether intentionally or not. Yet, the kingdom of God thrives despite our failings. The kingdom of God thrives because it is dependent on God’s power and not ours.
The kingdom of God will continue to spread and grow despite the things we may do to mess it up or the things we may fail to do. The kingdom of God is abundant in grace – grace that just keeps spreading and taking over everything – even while we sleep. There are people all over doing things behind the scenes that help God’s kingdom to grow.
Every small and genuine act of kindness helps the kingdom of God to grow. Every act of courage no matter how small helps the kingdom of God to grow. Every prayer, like a tiny seed, helps the kingdom of God to grow. And quietly, while we sleep, “the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” and the kingdom of God continues to grow and flourish. A new creation is taking shape.
We are a new creation in Christ. That is what the kingdom of God is all about. It is a creation different than anything we could try and imagine, anything we could try and control. It is filled with unexpected blessings that may come to us hidden in what we think are weeds, but are in fact, agents of healing. God’s grace is unstoppable, and it flows to us, and through us, out into the world. It is scattered like seeds into the wind, and these seeds of grace grow and grow and grow.
The blessings of God may not always come packaged with fancy wrapping. The blessings may be disguised as something unwanted. But rest assured, God’s blessings never end. It is up to us to be aware of them and see them through the eyes of faith, so that we may tell others about the never failing love of God. Amen.