September 22, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news this morning comes from Mark 4:26-29.
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
Mark is the only gospel writer to include this metaphor of the kingdom of God. I like the simplicity and directness of Jesus’ message about the kingdom. First, it is right now. I am in living in the kingdom of God. It is not the hereafter and, more importantly, it is not contingent upon what I or you do. It is unfolding now according to God’s plan regardless of what any of us do. Now, I can try to impede or advance it but that only affects my own participation in it. My action doesn’t have any implication for the reality of its presence.
That’s a good thing for me to keep in mind. I tend to take on responsibility for things over which I have no control. God is in complete control of the coming of His kingdom. Jesus tells me that like the sower I don’t know He does it. I can try all I want to figure it out, but it’s not for me to know. It is as God told us in yesterday’s reading from Isaiah, ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
God’s kingdom is operative of its own accord. Robert Farrar Capon in The Parables of the Kingdom notes, “Christians have often been lamentably slow to grasp the profound secularity of the kingdom as it is proclaimed in the Gospels….[W]e have too often given in to the temptation to picture the kingdom of heaven as if it were something that belonged more properly elsewhere than here. Worse yet, we have conceived of that elsewhere almost entirely in ‘heavenly’ rather than in earthly terms. And all of that, mind you, directly in the face of Scripture’s insistences to the contrary.”
I frequently hear Christians decrying the secularity of our society as if we are all on the road to perdition. So, I like this message of Jesus. The unfolding of the kingdom is in God’s hands and it is happening now whether we know or acknowledge it or not. We really have nothing to do with it. It is self-righteous hubris to think otherwise.
What a thought for me — the kingdom of God is now; it is here! That’s a much different way of looking at the world than I’m accustomed to. I am a very self-critical person, always looking for ways to improve and ways to bring about God’s kingdom. I always disappoint myself. But Jesus is telling me that it’s not for me to do. That’s God’s work! I can choose to accept it and be a part of it, but it’s not my responsibility. What a relief! I think that may be the path to peace for me and for truly resting and trusting in God’s love. As a friend of mine told me the other day, “Just give it time.” For me that takes patience and it means giving up this foolish notion that I am in control. I’m not as Jesus reminds me today. It is all in God’s hands.