In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus tells two parables or stories about “the kingdom of God.” We’re going to focus today just on the first of the two parables of the kingdom.
Now, the kingdom of God exists wherever the Holy Spirit empowers a person to believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to life with God and so, repents of sin and surrenders their whole life to Christ. The kingdom exists wherever a person trusts in Jesus as their God and Lord.
But we live in a fallen, sinful world. Sin exists within and around us, which is why it’s so important for Christians to confess our sins, ask God’s help to resist the temptation to sin, and put our lives in the hands of Jesus every day.
Yet, given the simple fact that sin so clearly has our world and often we ourselves by the throat, we may sometimes question whether the kingdom of God is present or if it hasn't been completely overrun by evil.
In both parables today, Jesus encourages us not to give in to despair! The citizen of God’s kingdom has an eternity of hope.
Yes, evil is rampant in our world. Disrespect for God’s Name, thievery and murder of all kinds, injustice to the poor, violations of God’s will that human beings have sexual intimacy only with persons of the opposite sex to whom they are married for life, reputation-damaging gossip, materialism, and all sorts of other sins fill our world.
They often fill we Christians because, like the apostle Paul in Romans 7, we can honestly confess, that though we want to do good, evil is right there within us.
Yet, the kingdom of God is still among us, still growing, and still able to usher into eternity with God anyone who dares to break with the world, repent of sin, and surrender to Jesus Christ.
Look please at Mark 4:26-29. Jesus says: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”
Here, Jesus introduces us to a reckless farmer. He scatters seed. He doesn’t bother with things like watering, hoeing to remove weeds, or laying on manure. He just scatters and goes through his daily routine, sleeping at night, waking in the morning. This man’s job--his only job, apparently--is to scatter the seed and wait and presumably, pray. (Like every farmer I have ever known has done and does.)
Folks, that’s our job as Christians, too.
The seed of God’s kingdom in this parable is our word--our witness--about the gospel. At least in the Church, we use that word gospel, the modern rendering of an old English compound word, “God’s spell” or “God’s news,” all the time.
But we ought to regularly remind ourselves of what the gospel is. We all know John 3:16, on which we focused a few weeks ago: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That’s the Gospel!
Every person born to life on this planet is ticketed for separation from God and for hell.
But because God loves us so much and wants us so much, He gave Jesus up to death on the cross.
Everyone who believes in Him--everyone who trustingly gives their sins over to Jesus and entrusts every piece of their life to Him--has what every human being was made for, eternal life with God.
This happens through Jesus and only through Jesus. That is the good news of God’s kingdom.
Today--and this is a little scary when you think about it, Jesus scatters this good news by one means only: through you and me, the people of His Church.
We Christians are the farmers whose job it is to tell others the good news about Jesus.
We’re to scatter the seed of God’s kingdom, then leave the growth and cultivation of that seed to God.
Yet it seems that as we Christians interact with our spiritually-disconnected friends, we find it easier to scatter anything and everything but the gospel.
And as we Christians fail to tell others the good news about Jesus and many churches rush to accommodate the world by telling people things like, “It’s OK if you shack up, cause boys will be boys and girls will be girls; it’s OK if you don’t believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and physically rose from the dead because we’ve never known anyone but Him like that either,” while the 21st. century Church is talking about everything and doing everything but the gospel, the world is embracing all sorts of new evil, walking farther away from God.
In Acts 1:11, the crucified and risen Jesus, just before He ascended into heaven, told the eleven apostles and, through them, told us: “You shall be witnesses of Me.” If you’re a baptized believer in Jesus Christ, you are one of His witnesses, called to scatter the seed of the Gospel.
But what if we fail to ever tell others about the Gospel?
Imagine for a second that you’re an interested spectator at a murder trial, anxious to hear testimony and form your own opinion based on the testimony of witnesses.
What would happen if all the witnesses called on simply sat on the stand and provided no information on the case?
Imagine that the witnesses who could be enlightening or helpful, instead talked about Kanye West and the Cavaliers, Caitlyn Jenner and national politics, but never said a word about the case at hand.
This is what would happen: The jury (and you, as an interested spectator) would be unable to make an informed decision.
If we Christians, who have been called to be witnesses for Christ, fail to tell others about Christ, they are unable to make a judgment about whether to receive the new life in God’s kingdom that Jesus offers.
Today, folks, the jury is out for many people when it comes to Jesus Christ because Christ’s witnesses have gone AWOL.
People are left with no witness about the most important question of their lives--whether they will receive life with God through Jesus Christ. And that happens because no Christian has dared to give witness for Christ's Gospel.
The stakes are high! Heaven or hell for all the people we may interact with in our lives depends on whether we Christians will be faithful witnesses for Christ or not!
Look at what Jesus says in Mark 4:29, at the end of the first parable: “As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
The “He” here is not the farmer who scatters the seed in the first few verses of the parable. Look, please, at Joel 3:13. The words from this Old Testament prophet’s book lay behind Jesus’ words to us today. It says: “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness!”
Both this passage from Joel and the words of Jesus in Mark 4:29, are about the ultimate judgment that will come to this world. The world will hurtle along from one evil day to the next. Evil will overflow through the life of the world. Those who refuse to repent and believe in Jesus will keep on sinning unrepentantly and never blink an eye.
Then God will wield His sickle. This world will come to an end. Only the seeds that have borne grain--only those who believe in Jesus Christ--will rise again.
This is why you and I must get over our fears and ask the Holy Spirit each day to present us with opportunities to scatter the seed of the gospel.
We need to ask God to give us time in our conversations with our neighbors, friends, and family members to tell them that surrender to Jesus Christ is the only way to life with God.
We need to ask God to help us scatter the seeds of His kingdom!
But how do we quiet Lutheran Christians find a way to scatter the seed of the gospel so that others can come to eternal life with God? Here are a few steps you can take toward being an active witness for Christ.
First: Maintain intimacy with Christ. Use what we Lutherans call "the means of grace," the routes God takes to fill us with faith, to give you a closer walk with Jesus Christ. These include God's Word, which we need to study, and Holy Communion. They also include prayer, conversation with the Lord. Through each, Christ draws us closer to Himself and cultivates an intimacy with us that God craves.
Second: Live in daily repentance and renewal. Repentance is changing our minds about our sins and turning to God for the forgiveness He offers through Christ. Two major things will happen when we live in daily repentance and renewal. One, God helps us to avoid sins that might harm us, harm others, or harm our relationship with God. Two, God helps others see the authenticity of our faith. When others see that we are admittedly imperfect people who seek each day to orient our lives to the will of God, it will enhance the credibility of our witness for Christ.
Third: Be intentional about forming friendships with spiritually-disconnected people. Jesus was always reaching out to unbelieving people. God's Holy Spirit can empower us to reach out to the same kinds of people and, as we share our witness for Jesus with them, some will follow Jesus. Be sure as you form such friendships, you maintain strong friendships with fellow believers with whom you study Scripture, pray, and maintain accountability in a small group of Christians with whom you regularly meet. Without this anchor of faith and love, you could be lured away from Christ yourself. You’ll be hearing more about this as we deepen the discipleship culture of Living Water and implement Simple Church.
Fourth: Remember your own story. It’s the true story of how Christ daily impacts your life that will give you the “street cred” to scatter the seeds of the gospel among the people you know and meet.
Fifth: Be kind. Romans 2:4 says that the kindness of God is given in order to lead us (and others) to repentance. God has been kind to us. Although we deserve death and condemnation, He has patiently given us time to become acquainted with His Son, repent for our sins, and believe in Jesus. Being kind also means being patient toward your disbelieving friends. Give them the time and space to experience God's love so that God can give growth and maturity to the seeds you scatter, so that they can believe in Jesus and grow as His children too.
May God use us to share His kingdom with everyone we know. Amen