The “Kindom” of God, July 12 Sermon from Pastor John
Sermon for July 12, 2020
Well, the deer were at it again. I was checking the flowers by the church and noticed the deer were checking as well. On the east side some beautiful day lilies are in full bloom. With one poor plant the petals were all scattered. The main stem was broken. With another the stem was broken but the flower at the end was still intact so I have it on my desk in a vase. I can get some temporary indoor enjoyment from the flower. In the gospel we heard Jesus speak a familiar parable. It would have been common sight for people to be planting grain on their small plots of land. Maybe Jesus even did such planting or sowing in Nazareth growing up with his parents Joseph and Mary. Jesus used this familiar scene as an inspiration to teach about how the good news of the kingdom is received. As we heard some of the seed fell among the path and was eaten by birds. Some of the grain that did grow was choked out by weeds. If Jesus was in the Northwoods he may have added the detail of the deer coming around and eating the grain.
Have you ever wondered why some people have a deep faith in God and others quite a shallow faith, and yet others who appear to have none at all? When I graduated from seminary I was excited about preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. By the way some Bible experts are using the term ‘kindom’, using the word ‘kin’ as in kinfolk, instead of the word ‘king’. This change helps us understand the kingdom of God not as land and nation, but as people and family. For example Jesus said “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” I was under the impression that sermons which emphasized the powerful grace of God, salvation, forgiveness of sins, and heaven as gifts from God would attract people to the church. But I soon learned it would not be that easy or predictable.
Jesus used a familiar scene from village life to illustrate the different ways people respond to the good news of the Kingdom of God. In days before mechanized farming people planted by hand. Some of the seed cast about would miss the soil and fall on the footpath, a wonderful opportunity for birds to eat the seed. Another batch of seed fell on rocky ground. There wasn’t much soil so when the grain did germinate it didn’t grow very long because there was no room for roots to develop. Some seed fell on soil overgrown with thorns and other weeds where any grain that did germinate would be choked out. But the seed that fell on good soil—no rocks or thorns—the yields were stupendous, truly amazing bumper crops.
Of course Jesus was not speaking as a university extension expert. Jesus called the seed the word of the kingdom. The disciples of Jesus were to be like farmers for God and plant this seed. Farmers are very keen knowing the differing soils and so Jesus’ followers are to be aware of the different kinds of reception they will receive. There are those who will hear the word of God and not understand it. There is no sin with not understanding the word of the kingdom of God. But instead of digging deeper and seeking to ask questions and converse with others about the Word of God, the Scriptures, some people just give up and feel it is too hard or too ancient or too incomprehensible for any possible meaning for our modern times. Jesus gave the stark picture of the Evil One, Satan, stealing the good seed of the kingdom from the heart. The people of Israel were taught to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Keep the word of God in your heart and talk about them with your children, discuss the word at home and when you are away. You get the picture. For the Word of God to grow as faith in one’s heart, for one’s life, it must be recited, reviewed, and reflected upon with others.
Jesus said the seed that fell on rocky ground illustrates people who hear the word of the Kingdom and receive it as good news with joy. But then troubles come and faith withers away. Well troubles certainly come. Some people question the existence of God, and doubt the foundation of the Kingdom of God which is the love of God for the world when troubles come and cause so much heartache. Certainly we have similar thoughts. The apostle Paul wrote in the letter to the Colossians, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Faith is not a passing fancy. Faith is to live our lives in Jesus Christ, rooted in him. On the channel 12 news the other night they showed an aftermath of a recent storm: a tree uprooted and almost fell on someone’s house. It must have been a powerful storm since we understand trees to have strong roots to anchor it. We trust many things in life, good things, for example now we are told to trust science when dealing with the pandemic. And we must. But even good things can be overcome by life’s storms. How can you trust only science when dealing with the death of a loved one for example? But rooted in Jesus Christ means our lives held firm by the forgiveness of sins because there is no condemnation for all who live in Jesus Christ. The cross reveals the depth of of Jesus’ love for us and this troubled world. Rooted in Jesus Christ means our lives are firm in hope because of his resurrection from the dead. This is a living hope revealing that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love. To be rooted in Christ is to be anchored in hope.
Jesus said the seed of the good news sown among the thorns illustrates how the cares of this world and the lure of riches choke out the word and it yields nothing. Isn’t this the truth: the cares of this world, worldly worries, anxiety because of what is happening in the world can have a strong grip. I still remember that young Saskatchewan farmer years ago telling me “if I did not worry, I would not get my crop in or care for my family.” He felt worry was a sign of responsibility in life. It is interesting Jesus connected the cares of this world with the lure of wealth. Could it be that a lot of our worries can be about money? Jesus did say at the Sermon on the Mount that you cannot serve two masters, specifically God and money. Whatever the source of our worry Jesus said do not let it all stew inside, but listen to his invitation: “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens; come to me all who anxious and worry about many things; listen to me, learn from me, and I will give you rest, and I will give you peace.
Jesus said seed did fall into good soil and there was a wonderful bumper crop. May we desire the word of the kingdom, the good news of God’s love, rescuing love for the world revealed in Jesus, be planted in our hearts, and firmly rooted there. Rooted and built up in Jesus we, the church, the people of God, are a wonderful and abundant field of grain, harvested in hope, ready to give ourselves for a hungry world, a world indeed hungry for the peace, love, and hope that come from God. In the North woods we often hear of the problem of invasive species that threaten lakes and the growth of native plants. The church faces plenty of invasive species that rob us and others of the joy of faith, and the hope we have in God. We all have had worry, anxiety, and false gods invade our hearts and threaten faith in God that is active in love for neighbor. The four soils in Jesus’ parable are us, and the good news is that God continually blesses the faith-creating power of the gospel. The Holy Spirit is ever at work so our lives are firmly rooted in Jesus. We heard in the first reading the prophet Isaiah assuring a troubled people of his time also speaking to us “My word shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God indeed did send the Word, Jesus Christ into the world, for the purpose of our rescue from the guilt of sin and the fear of death. So let us return to God daily for the gift of forgiveness and courage to face each day confident that God’s gift of hope cannot be broken.