The Third Sunday after Pentecost PROPER 11 (Green)
Sunday, June 17th, 2018
1 SAMUEL 15:34-16:13; PSALM 20; 2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-10 (11-13), 14-17; MARK 4:26-34
Collect Almighty God, without you we are not able to please you. Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Alt 1 Mighty God, to you belong the mysteries of the universe. You transform shepherds into kings, the smallest seeds into magnificent trees, and hardened hearts into loving one. May your life-giving Spirit re-create us in your image and shape us into your purposes, through Jesus Christ. Amen. Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002) alt.
Alt 2 Creating God, you make all things new. Plant seeds of confidence and gladness in our hearts, so that, trusting your word, we may live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and was raised for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002) alt.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of reconciliation and forgiveness, the saving work of Christ has made our peace with you. May that work grow toward its perfection in all we offer you this day. We ask this in his name.
Prayer After Communion
Holy and blessed God, as you give us the body and blood of your Son, guide us with your Holy Spirit, that we may honour you not only with our lips but also in our lives. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
A READING FROM THE FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL
[THE FIRST LESSON IS WRITTEN IN THE 15TH CHAPTER OF THE FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL, BEGINNING AT THE 34TH VERSE.]
Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.
[HERE ENDETH THE FIRST LESSSON.]
THANKS BE TO GOD. (1 SAMUEL 15:34-16:13)
REFRAIN The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble, the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
Send you help from his holy place and strengthen you out of Zion; R
Remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice;
Grant you your heart’s desire and prosper all your plans. R
We will shout for joy at your victory and triumph in the name of our God; may the Lord grant all your requests. R
Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed; he will answer him out of his holy heaven, with the victorious strength of his right hand.
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God. R
They collapse and fall down, but we will arise and stand upright.
O Lord, give victory to the king and answer us when we call.
A READING FROM THE SECOND LETTER OF PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS
[THE EPISTLE LESSON IS WRITTEN IN THE 5TH CHAPTER OF THE SECOND LETTER OF SAINT PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS, BEGINNING AT THE 6TH VERSE.]
We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord – for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.
[HERE ENDETH THE SECOND LESSSON.]
THANKS BE TO GOD. (2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-17)
THE LORD BE WITH YOU. AND ALSO WITH YOU.
THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO SAINT MARK.
GLORY TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.
[THE LORD BE WITH YOU. AND WITH THY SPIRIT.
THE HOLY GOSPEL IS WRITTEN IN THE 4TH CHAPTER OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MARK, BEGINNING AT THE 26TH VERSE. GLORY BE TO THEE, O LORD.]
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth 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 except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
PRAISE TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.
[PRAISE BE TO THEE, O CHRIST] (MARK 4:26-34)
Let us pray.
Eternal Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
I can’t count the number of hours of my life I have spent in wondering, dreaming, pondering what heaven might be like. It’s a question that children and adults seem to want to talk to me about. Especially around the time of the death of a loved one.
We know that Jesus talks about heaven and the Kingdom of God often enough, but we also know that Jesus often seems to speak in riddles through parables. And, if those aren’t confusing enough … today we get 2 of the shortest parables ever spoken – 4 and 3 verses respectively. So, what are we to do with that?
One thing we need to remember is that each of the gospel writers are people who are writing from their own perspective – their writing is their version of what they have experienced in Jesus.
For Mark, it helps if we remember that Jesus is God because of who opposes him. So when we read the parables, we need to remember that Mark has Jesus speaking to a crowd that opposes him.
So, with that in the back of our minds, lets spend some time focusing on mustard. What do we know of mustard?
- good on burgers
- great condiment
- it has been and is still used in healing rubs
- it has small seeds
- they are large plants
- it grows and seeds itself quickly
In Jesus time, mustard was and could still be considered an invasive weed. It has small seeds that sprout quickly … and if left untended, mustard plants quickly take over the garden.
Think about that a for just a minute … the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
Can you imagine what the government of Caesar was hearing about the Kingdom being like a mustard seed? I imagine Rome felt Jesus, and his followers were very much like a bad weed that you just want to yank out … after all, they did kill him.
Mustard starts small – Jesus came as a baby,
it germinates and seeds quickly – Jesus was teaching by age 12,
and it will take over the garden if you’re not attentive – Jesus message spread like wildfire and crowds followed him wherever he went.
What if we considered what Jesus meant by the Kingdom being a seed – mustard or otherwise.
Every farmer knows how precious seed is.
Every gardener knows that when you plant, you plant with a plan. You don’t go tossing seed all over the place, or you end up with a mess of a garden. Even the most haphazard looking English garden is planted along a plan. If you’re not careful with your mustard seed, you end up with nothing but mustard in the garden.
But, what happens when we think about the seed being Christ’s message of Love, Grace, and Mercy?
When Jesus tells these parables, he is just left teaching a large crowd and is now surrounded by his disciples and a small group of others.
What if the instructions he was leaving them was “sow the seeds of love, of grace, and of mercy widely, wildly and foolishly. Forget everything you’ve been taught about moderation when it comes to sharing the message. Tell everyone, spread seed everywhere, and then wake and sleep and watch what God does.”
History tells us that is exactly what Jesus’ hearers did. They took chances, they told their stories, they travelled, they risked persecution, risked crucifixion, and they sowed the seeds of the Kingdom far and wide.
And look what happened … 2000 years later we are still telling the stories, sharing the message of love, grace, and mercy.
BUT – here is the challenge for us!
We can come here to this building week after week and be reminded of these stories and then go home after an hour saying – “well, that was lovely. Didn’t those disciples do a great job that we can now go spend an hour in church every week”.
Or, we can take up the challenge that Christ Jesus issues to us in the gospel today. Are we able to step up, are we as Christ’s disciples in 2015 ready to sow those mustard seeds far and wide and watch what happens?
So often many of us, myself included, feel that we don’t know enough, we don’t have the confidence, the words, the ability to share our faith, to share Jesus with the people we meet.
So many feel inadequate or ill prepared.
BUT, I am here to tell you that just like the sower in the first half of the passage, all we have to be is someone who will scatter seed on the ground, sleep and rise night and day, and God makes the seed sprout and grow.
Our seeds may seem as tiny as that of the mustard plant, when all we have to share is what we have experienced in our relationship with God it sometimes doesn’t seem like anything significant. But, it is God who provides the growth.
In God’s eyes we are more than merely adequate.
Each and every one of us are exactly who God needs us to be. Our job is to willingly sow the seeds … wildly … unreservedly … far and wide … to share our stories of relationship with Christ – to share what we know to be true by what we have experienced.
The Kingdom of God is not about moderation – it is about abundance.
The seeds of faith, of love, of mercy, of grace are NOT meant to be used carefully.
We are not meant to sow carefully or only in places that WE feel they will sprout and grow.
The Kingdom of God is not a Quality controlled hydroponic greenhouse out in Leamington. It is not some place where we as the growers choose where and when and how to best plant for the best harvest of new Christians that will grow up in exactly the same way – looking, sounding, behaving just like us.
The kingdom of God is diverse and enormous with room for all of God’s children – where your ability or inability to grow strong and capable clones is of no interest.
Jesus is not asking us to produce perfect plants – or perfect Christians.
Jesus is asking us to be available to sow the seeds far and wide no matter the soil – no matter if WE think they will sprout and grow – knowing that when we give abundantly of ourselves, of our experiences of our faith, God provides the growth.
St. Mark shared that Jesus is about standing in opposition. Or as Bishop Terry is often heard to remark, Jesus is proclaiming that this is God’s world – not Caesar’s.
It remains true today – this is God’s world – not Queen Elizabeth’s, not Donald Trump’s, certainly not mine or yours.
No matter what our society says about where the good soil is, no matter what we are told about how to most effectively share the gospel to gen-X or boomers or millenials – no matter who we think might be most receptive to the Good News – no matter what we think about how the church should grow, we and our society is not in charge of the Garden.
And, that’s good news, right? It is not on us to provide the growth in the Kingdom, or the church.
And, if this is God’s world and God’s Kingdom, and God’s church, we are asked to sow love, grace, and mercy unreservedly, in abundance, without caution, to be co-creators with God in the kingdom.
Then we are called to watch with joy and awe what God does with it.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we pray that in your grace you will help us to trust you with the growth of the Kingdom. Help us to be abundant in the spreading your Good News to the poor, the widows, the outcasts, to our neighbours, to our family and friends. Shower us with your love, grace, and mercy that all those we encounter may come to know you by their encounters with us. This we pray in the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.