Mark 4:26-34(Pentecost 3)

Sunday June 13th, 2021

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for today is the Gospel Lesson from Mark 4 that was just proclaimed.

Dearest Jesus: Send your Holy Spirit to remind us that the kingdom of God does grow according to his good and gracious will not on our terms but in his own timing. Remind us that we sow and you grant the growth. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

When I was growing up, my mother made a those cakes in a Bundt pan that I used to love and eat in larger quantities than I probably should have. Being a young child, I was ignorant as to what it took to make a delicious cake like that.

I was sure that eggs and flour and sugar and cinnamon went into it, among other things. But it wasn’t until years later, while I was still a rather picky eater, that I watched my mother put this cake together from start to finish and was immediately put off by what I saw.

Part of the recipe, part of what made the cake so moist and delicious, was the addition of sour cream. It made no sense; sour and sweet do not go together. I like sour cream but in a cake that was supposed to be sweet it didn’t make sense.

Once the cake was finished baking, I dug into my first piece with great apprehension. Would I taste the sour cream? Would this favorite of mine no longer be enjoyed? Was this recipe now lost on me because of what was in it?

Of course, it tasted as good as always because it was the same recipe my mom had always used, and I quickly got over my disdain for having consumed sour cream all those years unawares.

Sometimes a thing is good on its own, and to know too much about it might ruin our appreciation for the good that it is—ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

Such is the case in the parable of the growing seed that we hear from Jesus today.

Like the Growing Seed, the Kingdom of God Grows; We Do Not Know How, Only That God Has Promised That It Does, and Perhaps Ignorance Is Bliss.

I. It’s true: sometimes, not knowing what makes a thing great enhances its beauty.

A. Certainly for the growing seed, ignorance was bliss.

1. In many ways, the succinctness of this parable is what gives it such power: “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground” (v 26).

a. What is scattered is the kingdom, and it is scattered in the world.

b. Unlike the parable of the sower, no distinction is made between the kinds of soil into which it is sown; it is sown in every place.

2. The man then goes about his business night and day, and the seed grows without his knowing how: “The earth produces by itself” (v 28).

a. The Greek term here is “automatically”—no further intervention is needed or required.

b. The earth produces first the blade and then the ear and then the full grain.

c. The growth happens, and it is good, but the man doesn’t know how—only that in time, a plentiful harvest will come.

B. But we are all sinful, prideful people who are not content with something working apart from our knowledge of it or our effort to make it happen.

1. When it comes to the kingdom of God in particular, we want to explain growth or decline, and certainly, we want to show the steps we’ve taken to make growth happen.

a. So there are plenty of programs out there to help churches deemed to be dying, giving them steps to take to turn the ship around.

b. In addition, who of us doesn’t have someone we care for who seems to be outside the king­dom of God and disconnected from the faith? The question about them is usually the same: What can I do to help them come around, find hope, have the joy of Jesus?

c. And when it comes to our own faith life, there are times we like to take credit for growth because we’ve gone to church more or studied our Bible more or prayed harder.

2. But the truth behind how to fix a dying church, or how to get our loved ones to believe, or how to increase our own sanctification is not by exploring more deeply what we can do, but what is done already.

a. In other words, to ask what can be done is to assume that something is missing that we can work to supply or improve.

b. It is to try and insert ourselves into a process that we have no business knowing about since it’s beyond our comprehension and is accomplished in a way far different than we would like.

3. The cake seemed far superior when I was ignorant as to how the baker crafted it. In the same way, the kingdom of God is a beautiful gift when we simply behold that the Creator mysteriously causes it to grow into a glorious harvest.

II. The growth of the kingdom of God is up to him, not us.

A. Jesus highlights that beauty in the parable today, even as he maintains the mystery of how the kingdom produces a fruitful end.

1. For what does the parable say? “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. . . . The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear” (vv 26, 28).

2. Christ’s death on the cross has redeemed the whole world, and the kingdom of God is already sown everywhere that Gospel is preached—in you and me, in the people of God in the Church, in your unbelieving loved one, in your atheist neighbor, when they’ve heard the Gospel.

3. The only growth that is going to happen will occur by God’s design, not by your effort, pressure, stress, or badgering. It is God who grants the growth automatically.

a. Perhaps it’s not all at the same time or in the same way for every person, but God assures us that the kingdom is there whether people recognize it or not.

b. If it were up to us to accomplish faith or church growth, then surely in two thousand years we would have figured it out—growth would be happening by leaps and bounds.

c. Only God has the ability to bring about the perfect kingdom, which may very well be comprised of superstar Christians and lovable losers all together.

4. The growth happens in God’s time and in his way; we know not how because if we did, we would probably stress over getting it done, and our Lord is much more interested in freeing our guilty conscience in his forgiving grace and granting to us a holy and eternal joy.

B. Yet the question still lingers: What do we do then? What do we do about declining churches? What do we do about our seemingly lost loved ones? How do we increase our faith?

1. The answer to those questions is also in the parable today: “[The man] sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how” (v 27).

a. Like the man, we go about our day-to-day business as a child of God in our God-given vocations.

b. Love and mercy received from God is love and mercy given in our homes and schools and workplaces and communities.

2. We are a people who are called by Baptism into Jesus’ death, formed by grace and forgiveness, shaped by mercy received at the Lord’s Table, who live by faith and prayer, patience and hope.

3. We confidently ask for God to grant the growth that he wills for us, for those we love, for the holy catholic Church throughout the world, and for those in whom the kingdom of God is still but a seed.

C. In the end, the harvest will come only when the grain is ripe and when the Lord has given growth to the kingdom as he desires.

1. It is then that the faithful will be gathered and the mystery of how the kingdom grew will be revealed.

2. We will be tempted along the way to try to help things along by our own effort or strength.

3. But just as you cannot force a flower to bloom or don’t always know exactly what makes the cake so good, in time, the kingdom’s beauty and goodness will be revealed and will be far more joyous than you could have imagined.

So, dear friends, rather than stress, know that when it comes to kingdom growth and faith development, ignorance is bliss, for by the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God will grant the growth in his time and his way.

For now, we each live in faithful patience night and day as a child of God, praying in hope for the growth that he has promised will come. Amen.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.