Sermon, Sunday September 25th, 2016, The Story Week 24
Jesus and His Seed Scattering Kingdom
Psalm 72:1-13, Romans 5:12-21
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’
9 Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
‘“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”[a]’
13 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.’
This week I heard this story while pondering this part of the greatest story ever told. I think some of our people at St Petri might relate to this – especially those who have had anything to do with serving in PNG.
Their entire world consisted of just one island. They measured wealth in seashells. They never heard an engine, struck a match, experienced a cold day, or been told about gravity. They believed the entire world was only what they saw and experienced…until 1930 when two white men arrived on the island of New Guinea. Michael Leahy and Michael Dwyer, two Australians prospecting for gold, began to explore the island. The indigenous people were not initially hospitable as these two men introduced them to a world beyond their own little island world. They suffered from “tiny islanditis”. The islanders had never seen skin so white or bodies so clothed. Seeing soap bubbles for the first time as the prospectors bathed in the river, the natives thought the bubbles were a skin disease. The islanders thought the lanterns the men had were containers with pieces of the moon in them. When Michael Dwyer took out his dentures, they ran screaming into the jungle.
When Jesus comes and begins to speak in parables that are simple and yet deep, do we find ourselves running away too?
As this promised Saviour come in such unexpected ways with sometimes unwanted challenge and difficult to grasp words and stories, do we also suffer from “tiny islanditis”?
Do we live as if the whole of reality is what we see and experience?
Jesus is an invader, a foreigner, an alien, an outsider. He spoke in language we are not used to and lived by means never known to us which we can find difficult to embrace.
Jesus spoke of a “kingdom.” In The Story we discover Jesus declaring, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” How are we to receive him?
Jesus is definitely not running an institution or an organisation or calling for more law and order to be established. He is not operating within the confines of a political system. He speaks of Kingdom – a kingdom that is lime soil and seed and growth.
In three of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—the “kingdom” takes centre stage, being mentioned over 60 times.
Monarchy (or kingdom) is hard for us who live in a democracy to appreciate or align with.
But “monarchy” is a biblical thing. The Old Testament prophets proclaimed a coming kingdom led by a new kind of king—the Messiah (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus Christ is that new, strange, human, divine, hidden, upside down king: a mere Nazarene carpenter in origin and criminal at the end.
What on earth is God up to in this Story of Stories? Whatever he is up to it is about a kingdom; establishing it, growing it, seeding it, speaking of it, expanding it. Jesus the King is teaching the stranger and the friend about the kingdom. (Mark 4:3-9).
Jesus’ kingdom is so different. It requires no palace, no taxation, no army, and no weapons of warfare. Instead it requires farmers with seeds and workers for the bountiful harvest which is just ‘there’.
And strangely enough, even for this King of kings, the sowing and reaping are patchy, according to the parable Jesus speaks today. Indeed, we hear that three out of four people will not receive the kingdom.
Even so, all this talk of ‘The kingdom’ certainly means that God the king is here within our reach, if we would only receive him and his rule. That is a big if…
It seems that we are more and more now believing that God is not present – not really, not practically – in our day, in our decisions, in our midst when we gather in his name.
We might be like a young lad of eight years. The boy and his ten year old brother misbehaved. So, to sort them out, their mum took them in to see the Pastor. The Pastor told the mother that he would talk the boys about God being everywhere, so that they got the message loud and clear that they need to behave always because they are always in God’s presence.
He called in the 10 year old and asked him, “Son, do you know where God is?” The boy sat still and silent. The Pastor asked the question again, “Son, do you know where God is?” The boy was silent. The Pastor tried again. The boy jumped up, ran out of the office, grabbed his 8 year old brother, saying, “Wow! Are we in big trouble! God is missing and they think we did it!”
Jesus, the man who speaks of a kingdom coming, of seed scattering, of a harvest growing says to us today that God is not missing; he is within our reach.
But how do we describe this King’s kingdom? Where do we find it? Where is it best seen. How does is grow and who grows it under what conditions? The questions go on and we at a loss because we cannot button this King or his Kingdom down. We can’t program it, plan it definitely, develop fool-proof strategy for it. It and he have a life their own, a mind of their own, a way of their own.
Jesus throws the seeds of God’s grace-kingdom around when he describes it in lots of ways..
The kingdom of God is a great treasure—like a huge, expensive pearl (Matthew 13:44-46). So, it is worth having. It is precious.
The kingdom of God operates with energies we do not understand or control (Mark 4:26-29). In the parable, the seed grows and no one controls it or makes that happen. It just grows or fades or dies depending on where and when it falls.
The kingdom of God is a worry-free, anxiety-free realm (Matthew 6:25-27; Matthew 6:33). It is safe. It is there. It is immovable because the King who rules it is this. People cannot alter its existence or determine its future. The King does that.
And why can we trust this King and his strange kingdom presence? Well, Jesus’ miracles and his words demonstrate his royal authority and power (Mark 4:35 – 5:11).
Jesus speaks to the winds and waves and they obey (Mark 4: 35-41)
Jesus speaks to demons and they fear him and obey (Mark 5:1-11)
Jesus introduces us to God who is King and who is “our Father” (Abba). (Matthew 6: 9-10)
Jesus even pronounced the thing that is reserved for God alone – forgiveness of human sin.
Do you have a king? We all do, in some form or another. But the truth is that in God’s kingdom there is room for only one king—we can’t be our own king or queen (Matthew 28:18).
God is creating a kingdom and you’re invited in to this growing, moving thing.
Soon, our king will return. Now we’re in training to live the kingdom life. We live in that kingdom tension. Three out of four may not believe him or our witness of him, but that other one just may.
We’re in the minority. This is always how it has been really, not just now in our “post-Christendom” time. People who have a living, breathing relationship of love and acceptance with their Father in heaven by the blood of the Son in the power of the Spirit are always the minority, even when the church was a large and influential institution. This is what Luther and other reformers could see. Mere religious outward keeping up appearances and religious talk is not how this Kingdom works.
This kingdom is a matter of the heart and where its treasure is. This kingdom is based on the King’s heart for sinners and their loving gratitude in return. It is a matter of trust. This is a kingdom of trust – so much trust that its citizens love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and each other as they have been loved.
So, the King asks you today, “How is the soil? How is the water supply? How is the openness to the King and his kingdom rule for you?”
The King and his kingdom are here. We can put away the “tiny islanditis”.
This Kingdom’s King delivers the needy who cry out to him, the afflicted who have no one to help. He has great mercy on the weak and the needy and saves us from Adam’s death. (Psalm 72:12-13)
Long live the King! Long may his Kingdom grow.
We may pray freely with Jesus: “Your kingdom come, your will be cone on this earth and in my life”. Amen.