Summary: We, like the disciples, are expected to bear fruit by spreading the seeds of faith-namely, the Good News of salvation-and nurture it as best we can. Then, we have to let God go to work. God will eventually reap the harvest and save those who hear His word
The Gospel reading from Mark 4:21-34 is a series of parables about the kingdom of God. Jesus used parables to explain the kingdom because the kingdom is so vast that our limited human minds can't understand it on our own. Jesus used these parables to explain the kingdom in terms that we, the disciples, and his audience could understand.
The parable of the sower explains how the kingdom can start in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us. Someone-a minister, a parent or another faithful servant of God-plants a tiny seed of faith in each and every one of us. It doesn't matter how the seed is planted, only that it is planted. Those of you who were farmers or who have planted any type of seed know that it can take a long time for the seed to grow into a strong, vibrant plant. We can water it and fertilize it all we want to, but nothing can speed up the process. It has to grow on its own, and we don't know how it grows.
Most of us have heard of the legend of Johnny Appleseed. That legend is based on fact. Johnny Appleseed's real name was John Chapman. He worked in a greenhouse and worked with plants, trees and shrubs. He really loved apple trees and planted them all around his hometown in Massachusetts. He really wanted people to enjoy apples as much as he did, so he traveled all around the United States planting apple trees and giving away apple seeds until he died in 1845. God wants us to be just as passionate about planting seeds of faith as Johnny Appleseed was about planting apple seeds.
The parable of the mustard seed is a good example of the old saying that "big things come in small packages". A mustard seed is very small, but it grows into a shrub so large that even birds can make their nests in its branches-a symbol of the seed of faith being offered to everyone, including the Gentiles. The seed of faith is like that. For example, in 2007 I began my preaching ministry. In fact, the very first sermon I ever preached was based on the Parable of the Mustard Seed. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement, but God gave me the strength to get through it. That small act of faith has blossomed into a thriving preaching ministry. A similar seed was also planted in my heart in 2003 when I began my lay ministry. God used my father's terminal illness and subsequent passing to bring me back to Him and do his work in the world through my ministry.
In order for the seed of faith to be planted and grow in us, we need to hear the word of God. The kingdom of God is hard to understand, so Jesus took time to explain it. The kingdom was hidden from our earthly view, so Jesus used the parable of the lamp to explain that what was kept hidden in the darkness needed to be brought into the light. The kingdom of God has to be brought from the darkness of our limited ability to understand it through teaching from learned ministers, be they lay or ordained. Those who hear the word of God and take it to heart will be richly blessed.
We, like the disciples, are expected to bear fruit by spreading the seeds of faith-namely, the Good News of salvation-and nurture it as best we can. Then, we have to let God go to work. God will eventually reap the harvest and save those who hear His word. The growth has to take place spontaneously and in the proper environment, and if it does, the kingdom will become even bigger than the bush produced by the mustard seed.