Hear We Go-Let It Grow
Sunday, June 17, 2018
St. Timothy’s UMC- Rev. Mark M. Vickers
(Final Sermon at STUMC)
Mark 4:26-34 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
The Use of Parables
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
For the last 3 and half years, we have attempted and achieved Kingdom Work! But, you know Kingdom Work in God’s Kingdom is never done. Doing Kingdom Work is a marathon event, it is not a sprint. It is an event that takes time, talent, endurance, and skills such as listening and applying what you have learned. News Flash! Nothing has changed in over 2,000 years.
We have before us this morning a wonderful parable that has to do with “hearing” and “doing.” It is a theme that runs rampant through Mark’s gospel and a major theme (17 times) in these opening chapters, so it must be important. We know it is important, that’s why we concentrate on it so very much! Now parables are interesting tools of dissertation. They talk in circles, they are not always clear, and it is almost like talking “in code.” Yet, the purpose and the intensity of increasing God’s Kingdom relies heavily on the work of communicating the message.
For you see in the Gospel of Mark, the purpose of speaking in parables and doing Kingdom work is for the hearers of the gospel message to literally “turn their lives around” and “live lives of trusting in the good news”! Is that not what we are all about? Is that not the purpose and the intent we have attempted to achieve over the past 3 and a half years, as well as 20 some years before that? St. Timothy’s UMC is ‘about’ Kingdom work, always has been, always will be now and in the future. It is the work of the church universal and should remain that way forever.
How well do you communicate? I’m not talking just about the good news of Jesus, but communicate in general? My friends, we live in a world that has “difficulty” at best, trying to communicate. We saw it this week in the news as people “fell over their words and explanations” about scripture and politics. We see it every day in the newscasts. We see it everyday in social media. We have so much trouble expressing ourselves as general, sensible, people!
As I worked my way through these parables, and this my friends is not so much a sermon about explaining the parables as it is trying to help us understand that communicating the Gospel, the “good news of Jesus,” is the first and foremost point of our Christian existence. Talking about the Gospel, talking about the life of Jesus and what Jesus has promised us as followers is of severe importance. Dr. James Boyce, a Lutheran New Testament scholar explains in an article, “Talk of the kingdom then has to do with how we will hear this Jesus and how his coming and presence among us will effect and shape our lives, if we really hear his call to ‘follow’ as his disciples and journey with him.”
My friends, the word “hear” resounds! In order to first speak clearly about an issue we must first hear. It’s interesting, the more I think about scripture and spend time “in” scripture, the more I realize it is about hearing what is being said rather than just spouting it out. It is about spending time listening to what is being said and then pondering what you hear. That becomes increasingly evident in this scripture when we understand that the proclamation of God’s kingdom is so very important that the writer of Mark states, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them...and he never spoke to them without using parables.” (vv.33-34).
Evidently there is something so key to the understanding of this life of repentance and faith of which Jesus call us that its character, its evident function, cannot be faced straight on, but only can be obtained in the hidden or secret language of parables. That my friends requires that we listen intently to the spoken, and in our case the written word. For the “hiddenness” that belongs to the message of the kingdom demands a special type of hearing that enables us to comprehend and understand the importance of it in our lives. Within this text alone, four times Jesus calls attention to the importance of “hearing” as a key factor in the life of repentance and belief shaped by this good news of the kingdom.
My friends, we need special ears to hear this! You need the well trained ears that you have to hear this word of Good News! For according to the gospel, “to you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God” (v.11). Then he continues to interpret carefully the implications of the parable of the sower for them, then everything is explained in private with his disciples. You my friends are not in private, the cone has been lifted and you are God’s gift to the world and to the Kingdom. You are not left without resources, you have more resources now than ever before. You have the message of the kingdom! You have good ears! And you have the promise of Jesus that, along with the call to repent and believe in the good news, God in Jesus continues to shape you. He equips you as hearers who have all you need, as God hears your prayers and the kingdom continues to take shape among us and in our world.
My friends, you are well equipped, you are energetic, you have great leadership, and you will have a new pastor who will engage you, love you, care for you, and stretch you just as I hopefully have done. We are United Methodists, we are together, we must stay united in what we say and what we do! Promise me that! For my prayers, our prayers, will be with you not only in times of transition, but for all time.
AMEN & AMEN