Summary: A sermon that teaches that experience and endurance is our teacher of faith.
The story is told about a test given to a Harvard Divinity Class in the Doctoral program. As you well know, Harvard is one of the most prestigious places of learning, so this group was viewed as the cream of the crop. It was a very clever test I might add that I believe speaks to this text as well as the issue of faith and action. The class was entitled, Christianity, Christians and Faith. The professor created this 15 week class and presented great lecturers and prominent lecturers to stand before this body and deposited principles, precepts, and practices on Christianity, faith, trust, and the word of God (Being a Moral Christian).
He then created a 4 hour test at the end of those 15 weeks on Being a Moral Christian, predicated upon all the lessons and lectures they had heard. He placed a 15 minute break at the 2 hour mark, so they were aware of the break. The test was difficult, challenging, and thorough.
When the 2 hour mark came they were all glad, the professor instructed them that they had 20 minutes for break and told them that refreshments and snacks were prepared for them right out side the class in the courtyard, but it was only a 20 minute break. The test would resume promptly at the end of the 20 minute break. What they were unaware of was that the break was a part of the test.
The professor had a young man in the court yard that was dirty and ragged, rumbling through the garbage as if he was looking for food. He also had a man that was placed at a distant but close enough to be seen lying in the bushes with soft moans and grunting. These students on their break saw that young man looking in the garbage and they heard the moans from the bushes, yet they drank their beverages, ate their snacks, and ignored the both of them. And at the 20 minute mark, they hurried back to the class room to finish taking the test on Being a Moral Christian.
As they all sat down in their seat and picked up their pencils to began, the professor said that the test is over, everyone is dismissed and that all would receive the same grade of F because all of them failed!
The class was shocked and confused, some said but it’s not over! We still have questions to answer, there are 2 hours left. Also, you have not even looked at our papers, so how can we all have the same grade?
The Professor said, I had you to hear great lectures and lecturers on this subject, you had engaging discussions on this subject, you wrote papers on the subject on Being A Moral Christian. Look out the window, that young disheveled and tattered gentleman looking through the garbage and that man that was over in the bushes are staff members here at Harvard and they were a part of my test.
You passed them by, you ignored them, and you made no effort at all to be of any assistance. You have been in class all these weeks learning and listening, but when the opportunity presented itself to be and to do; you demonstrated that you have more learning to do.
Here is that lesson for these disciples, but I believe it’s equally lessons for us as his God’s children. We spend times in the classrooms of our place of worship, hearing, discussing, and affirming, we come to the sanctuary and a word is deposited in us about the faith, trust, doing and not just being, and then we walk out into the arena life, only to need a greater lesson. That is exactly what happened in this story of Mark.
Mark outlines this for us with precise and yet practical details:
4:1 Jesus is busy teaching and a multitude gathers around him.
4:2-20 The story about the word of God having root and growing, and what keeps it from growing in you.
4:21-25 The story of the lamp (symbol of your faith and belief), do not hide it. It should be obvious.
4:30-35 The story of the Mustard seed faith.
This entire day had been focusing on putting your faith to work, putting your faith into operative mode so that that faith builds you up and helps you get stronger. They had spent time with Jesus being built up and developed.
Romans 10:17 does say, that faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.
We know according to Romans 5:3, trials, testing, tribulations produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.