Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Mystery of Faith - June 17, 2012 - Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 06) - Text: Mark 4:26-34
Lest I be accused of being remiss, (and please notice my tongue is firmly placed inside my cheek) today is the day our greeting card companies have given as Father’s Day. So, let me begin by saying, Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers who are here this morning. What a privilege and responsibility you have in being such a wonderful example to your children by being here in divine service on Father’s Day, instead of on the golf course, or the lake, or any other number of places too many men tend to be on this day, giving the witness that there are more important places to be than in divine service. As we will hear in our text for this morning, indeed, through the Word of the Lord and the means of Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit has worked faith in your heart and continues to grow that faith.
Perhaps you have heard stories such as stories about someone you spoke to only once. You helped him out when he was in a jam and when he ask you why you helped, you told him it was because of your faith in Jesus, because you had a personal relationship with Jesus. And the story ended with a bit of an update, such as, today the man you helped is an elder in his church. The way you treated him, what you told him had an affect on his life. Or maybe it was a story about a little boy from Sunday School. He was always the problem child. You did not know what to do with him. Time and again you got so frustrated with him. You prayed and prayed for him and even thought to yourself, “there is no hope for this child.” The little boy moved away and you lost track of him. Again at the end of the story you get this update, today, he is in college. He is studying to become a missionary. And if you asked him. He would tell you, it was because of that one Sunday School teacher who was so patient with him and told him about Jesus. Yes, these are made up stories, but I know that there are many true stories very similar to these stories. Maybe you have been a part of one. I suppose I could have made up some negative stories, you know the kind you very often read in e-mails, the ones that make you feel guilty because of some negative witness you think you may have made to someone. And unfortunately, we must all admit that at one time or another we believer our witness to be a negative witness. But I believe that Jesus is dwelling on the positive in our Gospel lesson and so that is where we will dwell. It is amazing how many lives we have the opportunity to touch each and every day, knowingly and unknowingly. And, to use the language of our text for this morning, we might say that every opportunity is an opportunity to plant the “seeds of faith.”
In our text for this morning Jesus tells two parables, but both parables are intended to drive home one point. The point of both parables, as Jesus Himself says, is to help us to understand, “What the kingdom of God is like.” Let me also say, we do not want to allegorize these parables, in other words we do not want to try to make everything stand for something, instead we will want to make one strong connecting point. There will be more than one connection point, but we want to find the one point that stands out. Jesus begins with, what my Bible titles as, “The Parable of the Growing Seed.” In this parable we do have several connecting points which we will mention, but we want to look for the main point. The connecting points are these: The seed is the Word of God. The ground is unbelievers. And the farmer is us. Let me say them again so that you have it: The seed is the Word of God. The ground is unbelievers. And the farmer is us.
In this first parable we will notice that the important parts are not the ground, nor the farmer, but the important part, the most important part is the seed. The ground does not plant the seed in itself and it does not make the seed grow. The unbeliever cannot plant seed or make the seed grow in his or her own heart. The farmer, you and I do not make the seed grow. The seed grows, “all by itself.” Yes, we do have the opportunity, even many opportunities in a day to make an impression on others. We do have the opportunity many times in a day to plant seeds of faith. As we wear the name Christian, that is, as others know that we are Christians, we do make a witness of what it means to be a Christian. Too often, I believe, we worry too much about our witness, whether we think it is a good or a bad witness and unfortunately, too often we decide it is best to make no witness at all, which is a witness in and of itself. In other words, when we decide it is best to make no witness at all, we have made a witness that our faith really is not important. Jesus’ first parable reminds us that the kingdom of God is not dependent on our good or bad witness, but it is dependent on the seed. I believe we can get some assurance from this parable in that fact we do not convert others, rather it is the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God which is the means of grace which does the work. Our concern is only to be about sowing the seed.
The second parable Jesus tells, in my Bible, is called, “The Parable of the Mustard Seed.” In this parable the Sower is God the Father. The seed is Jesus. And the large plant is the Kingdom of God which includes all believers. Again, let me give those to you so you are not confused: In this parable the Sower is God the Father. The seed is Jesus. And the large plant is the Kingdom of God which includes all believers. In this parable Jesus reminds us of His humble beginning, that He was born in obscurity, in the small town of Bethlehem, in a barn. Yet, through His life, suffering, death and resurrection He saved the whole world so that His Kingdom is over all people. Jesus is the seed. He is the seed of faith which we sow and share with others.
What does all this mean? Remember, Jesus tells us that He is setting out to tell us what the Kingdom of God is like. So, what do these two parables tell us about the Kingdom of God and what it is like? As we put these two parables together we can make three “aha” or conclusion statements. Our first conclusion statement, our first “aha,” is that Jesus is the beginning of faith. He is the prime mover. He comes to us through His Word. He comes to us through confession and absolution. He comes to us through Holy Baptism. He comes to us through the Lord’s Supper. As we have opportunity to live lives of faith, as we have opportunity to live our lives to the Lord’s glory, as we have opportunity to share God’s love with others, as we have opportunity to tell others about Jesus, these things are important, but we must remember that it is Jesus who is the first, the prime mover. We are not the important part in the equation. Jesus is the main thing. He is the one who is the seed and He is the seed which grows in us and in others. First, then, is that Jesus is the beginning of faith.
Our second “aha” is that Jesus is the middle of faith. He is the one who works in us to bring us to faith, to strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith. And again, just as He works faith in our hearts through the means of Grace, through His Word and through Holy Baptism, so He uses these same means as well as confession and absolution to give us forgiveness and His Holy Supper in order to strengthen and keep us in faith. And He is also the one who works through us so that we are able and we have the opportunity to share God’s love with others and to tell others about Jesus. Our second “aha” is that Jesus is the middle of faith.
Finally, our third “aha,” which should come as no surprise, is that Jesus is the end of faith. He is the one who brings all people into His kingdom. He is the one who gathers all people around His throne. He is the one who gets all the glory. And well He should. He is the one who gave up everything for us including and especially His own life. Jesus, true God, was enjoying all the glory that was His in heaven, and yet, for our sakes, He gave up that glory in order to take on human flesh and blood, in order to become one of us, one with us, one like us, except without sin. He came to do what we could not do. He came to accomplish what we could not accomplish. He came to live perfectly for us in our place, obeying all of God’s laws and commands, and then He came to take all our sins upon Himself, freely. He suffered and died that we might not have to die. He died that we might have life, eternal life. This one person, true God, true man, born humbly in a stable is the one who’s kingdom has grown to be so big that all believers are a part of His kingdom.
When you stop to help anyone, you are imitating Jesus. You are sharing Jesus love with them. When you stop to help anyone and you tell them about your faith you plant the seeds of faith. Certainly, you have no idea where that will lead and so it is with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is planted as the seeds of the Word of God are spread through Word and through action. Today we express this as, Jesus works using means, the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Through these very simple, ordinary means God works faith, gives forgiveness, strengthens and keeps in faith.
When you patiently instruct and help anyone, you are imitating Jesus. You are sharing Jesus love with them. When you instruct anyone you are planting the seeds of faith. They may be little seeds, but it is seeds which make a difference. It is the seed of the Word of God which brings growth and maturity.
As fathers, even as mothers, indeed as parents, we are our children’s first teachers. They look at us and see how we live and they are instructed through what they see. As the old saying goes, “More is caught than taught,” in other words, our children learn more from us through our actions, how we live and move and have our being, how we make our divine service and Bible class attendance most important, than simply by telling them, or as the other saying goes, telling them to “Do as I say, not as I do.”
You know, we do not live in a vacuum. Everything we do has an effect or a counter effect on others, on those around us. How we live, what we do, what we say does impact those around us. Our impact could be a negative impact which could lead someone astray and for that we beg our Lord’s forgiveness. But, thanks be to God that there are many times that we have been so filled with God’s Word and His Holy Spirit, His grace, so much so that we cannot help but tell others about Jesus and share His love with them and in so doing we are planting the seeds of faith.
Jesus reminds us of the power of one little seed. One little seed may be all that it takes for others to become a part of God’s Kingdom. And it is not we who are bringing this about, but Jesus Himself who is that one little seed. My prayer for each one of you is that the Lord will continue to work through His Word, that He would continue to grow and mature in you so much so that you may be encouraged to share Jesus’ love and to share your faith in Jesus with others, so that the seed of Jesus might be planted, might spring up and bear abundant fruit. And that is what the Kingdom of God is like. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.