|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 31, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C 2019||Joshua 5:9-12;Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 24, 2019||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2019||Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:31-35,Philippians 3:17-4:1|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2019||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019||March 6, 2019||Ash Wednesday||Isaiah 58:1-12|
|Last Epiphany, March 3, 2019 – Rev. Mark Jefferson||March 3, 2019||Last Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
|Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||February 24, 2019||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year C||Genesis 45:3-11, 15; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C – “Be a Blessing”||February 17, 2019||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C 2019||I Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 6:17-26|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||February 10, 2019||Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Luke 5:1-11|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||February 3, 2019||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||January 27, 2019||Third Sunday after Epiphany||Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 1; Corinthians 12:12-31a;Luke 4:14-21|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||January 20, 2019||Second Sunday after the Epiphany||John 2:1-11|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||January 13, 2019||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22|
|The Epiphany||January 6, 2019||The Epiphany, Year C||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Eve, Year C||December 24, 2018||Christmas Eve, Year C||Luke 2:1-20|
Pentecost 4, Holy Eucharist II, Year B
Sermon Date:June 17, 2018
Scripture: Ezekiel 17:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17, Mark 4: 26-34
Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6, Year B
"Mustard Seed ” – Katy Jones
Who are you living for?
Your very life depends on your answer!
Our lives can end in a flash! And let’s face it, even if we live a long time– in God’s time, our physical lives are fleeting.
And so this question of who you’re living for matters, because the answer to that question can save your fleeting life, and make you new, brand new, no matter how old, or hurt or tired or discouraged you are, or no matter how young you are.
Starting right now! And continuing on throughout eternity!
Consider the life of Jesus.
Jesus lived every day of his life for God.
His total belief in God and God’s universal goodness and compassion shaped everything Jesus did and said in his life.
Jesus lost his physical life because his belief in God and God’s kingdom conflicted with the kingdoms of the day, both religious and political.
Jesus was put to death for having the audacity to live for God, and God alone– and not in collusion with the temple authorities or the Roman empire.
But by losing his life, Jesus saved his life, and ours too.
God resurrected Jesus, and through Jesus, we all have the opportunity for a true life, something so wonderful and full of truth that it never ends.
Now if the Apostle Paul were alive today, he’d have a Twitter account.
The way St Paul would talk about Jesus on Twitter is the same way he wrote it out way back in his time when people spread news through letters written on scrolls.
Paul wrote, and today would tweet, that through Jesus, we have eternal life.
Paul would tweet, “Jesus died for everyone!”
“So that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and was raised FOR US!”
Jesus, on the other hand, wouldn’t have had a twitter account. He didn’t even bother to write things down.
But actually Jesus’ mission would have fitted into a tweet. He spoke his mission out loud, right up front at the beginning of Mark’s gospel– Mark 1:15—
“The kingdom of GOD has come near; repent and believe in the GOOD news.”
Jesus’ mission was to make this mysterious, life-giving and wonderful thing he called the kingdom of GOD, the GOOD NEWS, come ALIVE in the world!
So Jesus didn’t even try to tell people the GOOD NEWS and to define the Kingdom of God in sound bites, or in little wordy tapas that would never fill them up.
Instead, Jesus told stories and spoke in metaphors, just as the great prophets had done before him.
He feeds those of us who choose to listen to him with banquets of words.
He wants us to understand and live into his message—
Because we, and the world around us, will either live or die, based on whether or not we get what he is saying.
The verse in Mark that comes right before today’s gospel reading doesn’t make it into the lectionary, but I started with it, because it is a stark reminder that Jesus demands that we imagine the kingdom of God here and now and start living into what God is telling us, believing that the kingdom of God is not some far off dream, but a reality on this earth.
Mark 4:25–“For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
Life or death.
Jesus wants us to understand his words about the Kingdom of God, because if we don’t, we’ll miss out on the Kingdom.
We’ll miss out on life itself!
The first of the two life giving parables about the kingdom that Jesus tells in today’s gospel is about seeds being scattered and sprouting and growing. A stalk sprouts, a head of grain forms, and then the grain ripens.
And then it is harvested.
“Listen,” Jesus says.
“In my kingdom, I’m going to plant my word in you. And this GOOD NEWS will grow in you, mysteriously, over time. The GOOD NEWS will mature in you. And you will be like a full grain of wheat. And then, you’ll be harvested.”
If we are living in God’s kingdom, we are longing for God to plant a seed of GOOD NEWS in us!
And then we must wait on God, as God gives growth to that seed of GOOD NEWS that God has planted in us.
And then, when we’re ripe, because we’re like heads of grain, we get harvested. The death and resurrection of Jesus is an example of this very harvest. He had planted the seeds about the Kingdom of God, he died, and then through his resurrection, God gives all of us a way into eternal life!
If we ripen into heads of grain in God’s kingdom, we too will die to ourselves and get ground up into the rich deliciousness of the GOOD NEWS that God makes into a hearty banquet that nourishes life itself! And just one head of grain won’t make enough flour to feed the world—this is a communal effort—all of us get to be ground up into GOOD NEWS!
The people around us are starving! WE are starving! We are trying to live our lives and make meaning from the words we greedily ingest from Tweets, emails, Facebook, CNN, NPR and Fox News.
NO Wonder we are Starving! We’re trying to live off junk food, and what we’re eating is leaving us still hungry and starving to death,
because only words that can truly nourish us and feed us so that we can grow up into eternal life are the words of the GOOD NEWS!
In Bible times, bread was the staff of life. People had bread to eat when they had nothing else, and when they had no bread, they literally had nothing! No wonder Jesus called himself the bread of life.
So yes, I want to be harvested, and ground up into flour, and added into the mix that makes enough flour to make the bread of the GOOD NEWS that can truly nourish this hungry world.
When I become part of something bigger, of new life and bread for the world, when I can be part of the bread of the GOOD NEWS, then I’m glad to live no longer to myself, but for Jesus, who died and was resurrected, not just for us, but for the whole world.
The second parable in today’s reading answers the question of WHOSE we are; that is, who we are living for.
The mustard seed, a tiny seed, grows into the greatest of all shrubs that puts forth large branches so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.
Jesus knew the teachings of the prophets inside and out, so I guarantee you that he knew that Ezekiel had written about this same sort of life giving tree—we heard this passage today.
Ezekiel describes God taking a sprig from a lofty top of a cedar and planting it on a high and lofty mountain so that the sprig can produce boughs and bear fruit and become a noble cedar—and under it, every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.
Jesus knew that Ezekiel was talking about God planting a new king in Israel with the hopes that the king would lead the people in the life giving, merciful, compassionate and welcoming ways of God, a king who would be subject to God and to God’s will and work in the world. And his listeners would have caught right on.
I was fascinated to learn in my reading this week that kings in the Ancient Near East had huge gardens where they planted trees and other plants from the kingdoms they had conquered. This action symbolized that the king’s reign extended over the regions in which these plants were native. One of these gardens is described as one in which all these imported plants created a habitat in which all birds and creatures, even those who were not native to the area, came to live and found welcome.
So this Kingdom of God that Jesus talks about, that grows from something as small as a mustard seed, is a kingdom in which the king and the people in it make shelter in it for all people and all creatures. In God’s kingdom, there are no borders. No bird is turned away. All are welcome to nest in its shade.
Our imaginations are as small as a mustard seed.
Don’t be satisfied with your tiny imagination, hemmed in by the tweets and the propaganda of this world.
In this parable Jesus reminds us to hand over to him our imaginations that we have allowed to become tiny, limited by the world around us.
Jesus says, “Let me take that tiny mustard seed of your imagination and grow in you a vision of the Kingdom of God, where my Father himself is king, a kingdom which is so extensive and whose branches extend so far that all are welcome, and there’s space and safety and shelter for everyone.”
Jesus wanted his listeners to imagine God’s kingdom by imagining first what God is like. God is the king who plants an extensive garden where all creatures are welcome. God is the noble cedar. God is the huge welcoming shrub.
If you decide that you are living for God and God’s kingdom, you can imagine this garden.
You can imagine this mighty king.
You can imagine yourself as a branch of that king’s tree that can and will offer shelter to all the people that God sends to you for sustenance and shelter. This sort of imagination is life giving both for us and for those around us because now we can imagine what it would be like to welcome all in God’s name.
I want to have the kind of imagination that makes me long to be in Christ.
I want the kind of imagination that lets me LIVE as one of God’s Kingdom People, living not for just for myself, but for all of God’s people!
I want to be a large branch on God’s tree, so that the birds of the air can come and nest.
I want to imagine myself as God’s new creation!
Because for me, that’s where life is, the new creation that God is growing in me now and in the life to come!
For to those who have more will be given!
And the more we have, the more we have to give!
Osborne, William R. Trees and Kings: A Comprehensive Analysis of Tree Imagery in Israel’s Prophetic Tradition and the Ancient Near East. Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplements. Eisenbrauns, University Park, PA , 2018.