Summary: When we plant the seed of our souls in God's care, we will be a part of the amazing, unimaginable, and yet seemingly mysterious growth of God's Kingdom.
Several years ago, a company mailed out some special advertising business post cards with a mustard seed glued to it with a caption that went something like this: "If you have faith as small as this mustard seed in our (product), you are guaranteed to get excellent results and be totally satisfied." –Signed, The Management
A few months later, one recipient of this promotional piece wrote back to the company and said, “You will be very interested to know that I planted the mustard seed you sent on your advertising card and it has grown into a very healthy bush producing wonderful tomatoes!”
Now, when Jesus told these two parables that we heard a few moments ago, he spoke about a farmer planting seeds in the ground and then observing, almost bewildered, as they sprout and grow. Then, Christ went on to remind us of how an enormous bush grows from only a tiny mustard seed. Jesus wasn’t confused about his seeds; he wasn’t doing any “monkey business” trying to claim something that wasn’t true. Jesus was simply speaking in parables. He was using a frame of reference that the people could understand and relate to. Jesus does this a lot. And in this case, that reference is seeds, and planting, and growth. So it is, in the midst of this sermon series on “Gardening with God,” that we come to this set of parables. But before we dive into these parables, I want to talk for just a minute about parables in general.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, we come across Jesus saying: “This is what the kingdom of God is like,” and “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like,” or “What parable shall we use to describe it? It is like…” Jesus did this a lot when trying to get across to those who were listening what it is like to live under the reign of God. He compared it to things we can understand or relate to. Jesus spoke of earthly things in order to convey heavenly truths, which really makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? We can’t possibly know what something is like unless we have experienced it, touched it, tasted it, or seen it.
Think about it this way: Say you have seen a color that no one else in the entire world has seen. How would you explain it to someone else? You would have to say: “This color is like…” Otherwise, there is no chance that anyone would be able to even come close to grasping what you were talking about. So again and again through the Gospels, Jesus tells us: “The kingdom of God is like…” Jesus doesn’t tell us that the Kingdom of God “IS” “a treasure hidden in a field,” or that the Kingdom of God “IS” “a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish,” or that the Kingdom of God “IS” “yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked through the dough…”
Instead, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is “like” these things. And people in Jesus’ day would have easily related to stories of seeds planted and then growing as they slept. They could visualize a tiny mustard seed and the 10-foot tall bush that would grow from it. These things were an integral part of their life. Every year they would plant seeds and watch them grow. They would toil and labor and harvest the fruits of those plants in order to feed and provide for their families. So, they would also understand, at least to some degree, what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of God when he used these analogies. For most of us, agriculture is not so much a regular part of our lives as it was for Jesus’ listeners, and that’s why we are taking time to really delve into these gardening stories in the Bible; to make sure we understand fully what is being conveyed as it relates to our faith.
So in our Gospel Lesson for this morning we see Jesus using illustrations from the growth of nature to describe the Kingdom of God. In verses 26-29, Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is happening, and whether we understand it or not, there are clear signs of its reality. “It’s as though someone scatters seed on the ground, then sleeps and wakes night and day. The seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer doesn’t know how.” In and through the lives of those who are allowing God’s reign to control their lives, that seed of faith, that seed of grace, that seed of salvation is sprouting and growing.
The sun comes out every day and the seed grows and sprouts. The rain comes and the seed blossoms and grows. And before you know it there is “first the stalk, then the head, then the full head of grain.” Then the grain ripens and it’s time for the harvest. For those living in the Kingdom of God, God is in control of our lives, and thus God is in control of our Christian growth toward becoming more and more like Christ. Can you imagine this? Intimacy with Christ grows in us as certainly and as effortlessly as seeds grow. All we have to do is plant the seed of ourselves in God’s garden, and God will take care of the rest! God’s grace will protect us from the scorching heat of sin, God’s mercy will rain over us, filling us with living waters. God’s sun will shine on us, nurturing us to full maturity.