The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 6B (6/17/2012)

Lessons:Ezekiel 17:22-24 Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 (12) 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17 St. Mark 4:26-34 Semi-continuous Series: 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13 Psalm 20 (6)

Prayer of the Day O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:26 [Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

St. Mark 4:26-34 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how…

Ultimately, it is all mystery.

I know farmers who have the most sophisticated equipment imaginable. Seeds are genetically manipulated. Broadcasters are driven by GPS units and computer software. Storage bins are temperature and humidity controlled. Professional traders offer advice about when to sell and when to hold off. To be a successful farmer these days is a completely different process than what my southern Minnesota ancestors experienced on the cornfields of Redwood County in the early and middle years of the Twentieth Century.

Yet still, it is all mystery. Earth is tilled. Seed is thrown. Fertilizer is applied. Prayers are offered. And in good years, the harvest comes. We imagine that we know how. A Bachelor of Science in Agriculture can help us comprehend the nuances. But the fact remains: there is mystery in the reality that from the earth we are able to raise food to nourish our bodies.

So too with the life of faith. We have all the tools we need to share our faith with others — and they are right at our fingertips. Online faith development resources. Study Bibles. Daily devotional messages that come from half way across the world. 24-hour television and radio programming. Theological books available on Kindle and iBooks. There are more sophisticated resources for faith development available to you and me than any previous generation has even imagined.

Yet still, it is all mystery. We tell the story. We encourage the faith of those closest to us. We pray for the movement of the Holy Spirit. And in some cases, one whom we love joins us in loving God. An advanced degree in Theological Education might make us more aware of various Christian traditions and tools for Biblical interpretations. But the fact remains: there is mystery in the reality that through our very human — sometimes very flawed — proclamation, faith takes root and God transforms lives.

It is easy to imagine that we control the entire process. If we make a strong enough appeal; if we offer iron clad logic; if we answer every imaginable question, then through our efforts faith will take root in another’s life. Yet if we’re honest, we know it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes our words find a place at the center of a friend’s life; at other times they seem to sail right past them, as if they made no impact at all. Ultimately, it is all mystery.

Jesus tells the story of a sower of seeds. This sower hasn’t studied agriculture. This sower doesn’t have sophisticated methods or equipment. This sower simply does two things: first, seeds are sown. And then, life goes on. Sleeping and rising. Sleeping and rising, and all the while, seeds mysteriously sprout: first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head, until it is time to go into the fields, and bring in the harvest.

God calls us to become part of the mystery, and we sow seeds of faith wherever we go. We share our faith; we perform acts of mercy; we give of ourselves generously. We pray that the Holy Spirit might move, and that the promise of the Gospel might claim another believer. Help us, O God, in our efforts to offer our witness. And work the mystery of faith in all who receive it.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is striking about the actions of the sower in Jesus’ parable?
  2. What does the mustard seed illustrate about how faith grows in us?
  3. What does St. Mark mean by the phrase, “as they were able to hear it?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who has sown seeds of faith in my life?
  2. Who has God touched, through my faithful witness?
  3. How might I grow in my ability to trust that if I offer a witness, God will give the growth?