Second Sunday after Pentecost -- Proper 6B (6/14/2009)

Scattering Seed Faithfully

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

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 Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

In his book "Spicing Up Your Speaking," Simon Coupland tells the story of Milton Cunningham. Cunningham and his wife, Barbara, were Baptist missionaries to Rhodesia and Zambia from 1957 to 1967, and he later served as a mass media consultant for the Baptist Foreign Mission Board in Africa. He was organizer and chairman of the board of trustees of Lusaka International School in Zambia. He had just settled in for a flight from Atlanta to Dallas when a little girl took the seat next to his. She turned to Milton, and in all her innocence, said, "Mister, did you brush your teeth this morning?" With a smile, Milton said, "Yes, I brushed my teeth this morning." She said, "Good, 'cause that's what you're supposed to do." Her next question was, "Mister, do you smoke?" Milton assured her that he didn't, and she responded, "Good, 'cause smoking can make you dead." Her third question was even easier to answer, "Mister, do you love Jesus?" He answered with confidence, "Yes, I love Jesus," and she said, "Good, 'cause we're all supposed to love Jesus."

About that time, a man settled into the seat on Milton's other side. Immediately, the little girl nudged him: "Ask him if he brushed his teeth this morning." He wasn't about to disturb the stranger, but the little girl was persistent, so Milton turned to the man and said, "Excuse me, sir, but my little friend here wants to know if you brushed your teeth this morning." The man smiled at the little girl and assured them both that he had brushed his teeth. With a sinking feeling, Milton realized where this was going. As if on cue, she urged him to ask the man if he smoked. Reluctantly, he asked, and fortunately, the man didn't. Milton wasn't sure what she'd have said if he did! Sure enough, the little girl wanted him to ask the man her third question: Did he love Jesus? Milton protested that the question was too personal, that he wouldn't be comfortable asking, but she was persistent, so he finally turned to the man and said awkwardly, "Now she wants to know if you love Jesus."

At this, the man's face darkened: He began to talk about his desire to know God. He had been searching for God, for meaning and for purpose, but he didn't know where to turn. Milton Cunningham picked up from there and shared the good news of Jesus Christ with him, but the conversation never would have started without the help and persistence of a little girl with a big heart.

Now there were any number of reasons for Cunningham to not share his faith with that stranger. He had no credibility with him: they didn't even know each other. They only had that one airplane flight together, just a couple short hours, and who knows if they'd ever meet again? There was no indication that the man was even vaguely interested in faith... We could develop a list of reasons as long as our arm - excuses to leave that man alone and not try to share words of faith with him. But this little girl wasn't inhibited by those kinds of lists. She just wanted to know that the man brushed his teeth, abstained from smoking, and loved Jesus. Her curiosity and concern helped this international missionary to share Christ with a man who wanted to know more about God.

That's the kind of ministry to which Jesus calls us in this week's parable. Throw a few seeds. See what the Holy Spirit can do. Who do you know, whose life is crying out for the presence and promise of God? Perhaps God is trying to reach them, through you.


Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. What is surprising about the two parables in this week's lesson?
  2. What would have happened in Jesus' parable if only those who fully understood how seeds grew underground sowed seed?
  3. What does the diminutive size of the mustard seed say about what God can do with even the smallest of beginnings?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. When have I been part of "sowing a seed" that led to faith in someone else's life?
  2. When have I missed the opportunity to make a witness to my faith because I didn't think it was possible that anything could have come out of my efforts?
  3. Who, in my life, is not a believer? And how might God be calling me to sow seeds of faith in that person's life?