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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Jun 17, 2018  SERMON TEXT

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for the 4th Sunday After Pentecost, Mark 4:26-34. There we read these words:

And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

We begin in the Name of Jesus, Amen

Dear Christian friends, Today’s Gospel presents a truly beautiful and appealing picture of Christ Jesus the King. The Kingdom of God is far loftier and greater than any human imagination could ever conceive. It surpasses all things in heaven and on earth. The Kingdom of God is such a complete mystery to fallen thinking—human brains are so powerless to grasp its divine wonders—that God must reveal His kingdom to you.

He must perform the miracle of opening His kingdom both to your hearing and to your eventual sight. God must explain to you absolutely everything about His Kingdom, and He must do so in simple Words that you can actually understand and comprehend.

Dear friends, see the patience of the Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel! "With many such parables He spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it."

This is the God that so dearly wanted you to be near to Him that He placed Himself beneath you (John 13:3-5), trading all of His shining majesty for the "form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7) "being born of a woma

This is the God who so earnestly wants you to feel at ease in His presence that He welcomed little children into His arms and onto His lap (Mark 10:14), proving that no one needs to feel afraid of Him or intimidated by Him. Even in the immense power of His resurrection, having died for the sins of all, Christ Jesus the Lord did not allow His majesty to overwhelm and stupefy His disciples.

What did He do? The Lord showed His disciples His hands and His side (John 20:20) and even ate a meal with them (Luke 24:42), allowing His disciples see simple proofs that He indeed has risen from the dead.

Here in today’s Gospel, Jesus continues His friendly simplicity, making Himself and His Kingdom available, reachable and understandable to all. Jesus "spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it."

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Here Jesus cuts the worm into little bits, so to speak, as a mother bird would do for her hungry chicks. In this Gospel, Jesus splits the log of His Kingdom into kindling, as it were, so that it will burn more easily for you and more brightly in your eyes.

The Kingdom of God is far greater than any human imagination could ever conceive, but Jesus delivers His kingdom in today’s Gospel using Words that even a young child is "able to hear." Kindergarten students learn to plant bean seeds and watch them grow in the classroom windowsill!

Therefore Jesus said, The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

By comparing His Kingdom to a man scattering seed, Jesus wants you to know that you do not need to concern yourself with how you might come into His kingdom. You are merely the ground—and the ground does nothing. God’s Kingdom has come to you, the same way that a man might throw seed in every direction around him, onto the ground. You have done nothing to gain the kingdom, but the Kingdom of God has landed upon you, with all of its mercy and grace, through the generosity of Him who scatters the seed!

By comparing the growth of His Kingdom to "the seed that sprouts and grows," Jesus wants you to know that the Word of His Kingdom—that is, His Words of forgiveness and His promise of your eternal life—these Words shall not fail to do their good work within you, even though no one could ever see or imagine how.

The Words of Jesus seem to be only Words. But the Words of Jesus are divine Words, creative Words! The Words of Jesus do their miraculous work within you, creating for you "the blade" and "the ear" and "the full grain" of forgiveness of sins and good works and hope and consolation and eternal life and a body raised up from the dead!

By telling you that the harvest shall come, your Lord Jesus is assuring you that you shall not be forgotten! Jesus is the farmer who patiently watches His dear crop and He knows exactly the day and the hour that He shall gather you in. Your Lord Jesus promises you in today’s Gospel you shall not remain in this life a single moment too long, lest the fruit of your faith and grain of your good works over-ripen and spoil.

So too, your Lord’s promise of a good harvest also means that it is simply impossible for you to leave this life too soon, because a good farmer will never collect green or un- ripened grain. Here are the Words for your joy and happiness in every moment of your life, no matter how long you may live: "When the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

Jesus "spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it." The Words "as they were able to hear it" do not refer to small portions.

Rather, these Words describe the Lord’s simplicity of speech and clarity of expression. Jesus so earnestly wants you be able to hear the Word—that is, the Lord so much wants you to receive the blessings and benefits of understanding what He says—that He added a second parable in today’s Gospel, both for your understanding and for your joy.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Jesus said again, With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

When Jesus compares His Kingdom to a grain of mustard seed, He is speaking a bit of a warning to you. Essentially, Jesus is telling you, "When you look for My Kingdom in this life, do not expect to see very much!"

The Kingdom of God is low and unbecoming in the eyes of human expectation. The Kingdom comes and the Kingdom does its life-giving work by means of common, every day elements: simple water in Baptism; tasteless bread and ordinary win in Holy Communion; human words and common expressions in preaching and in the Absolution. In human eyes, all of these things seem unimportant and negligible, like the grain of a mustard seed. But what happens to that seed, according the Word and promise of our God?

Jesus explains: "The seed grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With these Words, Jesus is promising youthat His kingdom is large enough for you and for me and for all others who whom the Lord will gather. The seemingly useless and small "seed" of Jesus’ forgiveness—that is to say, the seemingly ordinary ways that Jesus delivers His forgiveness to you through Words and water and wine—this seemingly useless seed will protect you and preserve you and provide a secure home for you. The Lord Jesus, the crucified and lifted up, is your shelter (Psalm 91:1). Confidently build your nest in His shade (Psalm 121:5). "With many such parables Jesus spoke the Word to them."

This is no egotistical professor or lawyer who prefers to make people work hard, or who deliberately speaks in a manner that few can understand!

This is our gentle Shepherd and our unassuming King! This is the God whose Words can destroy the earth just as easily as they created the earth, yet it is also the God who knows that His Words are worth nothing until they come to you and do their beneficial work within you.

So the Lord’s condescension continues, even long after His incarnation and birth and death and resurrection.

"Jesus spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear it" because He loves even someone like me and because He wants you and me both to be included in His kingdom. The Kingdom of God defies all human imagination, but Jesus will not be stopped by that!

Even now, through His Words, He lowers Himself to lift us up.

Christ is Risen

Luther Rose
Christ Is Risen
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