Pentecost 4 Proper 11 Yr B 2018
1 Sam. 15:34 -16:13; Ps. 20, Mk. 4:26-34
Here in Mark’s account of the parable of the sower, we have some truths that bear thinking about. Jesus has brought a message, the Good News that God wants to welcome his children back to His side, that he is willing to forgive their sins, and that he will accomplish this through Jesus Christ the Anointed One.
Just prior to telling the parable of the sower, Jesus said a light is not given to be hid under a bushel. That this message, hasn’t been given us to hide away, under a bushel basket as it were, but others need to see it. Others, still in the darkness, need to see it.
Some people take the light they have been given and illuminate the darkest of places – prisons, death row – places where you would think that Satan rules undeterred. They take the light of Christ into the lives of those who have only known darkness. One on one.
And it is by one person showing the light to another – that the rule of God will eventually extend over all the earth.
Satan knows about that method and uses it to spread his own influence. He uses it to have one depraved person lead another into depravity. He uses internet chat rooms, porn sites, one-to-one communication to help spread his evil.
But Christians too meet on websites. Websites are set up to spread the Gospel. You can read the Bible in any translation, and practically in any language, on the net. You can read sermons, visit churches oceans away. You can be part of on-line discussion groups.
You can also be part of a bible study group right here at home. You can mix with other Christians, pray, work together to help others, and take part in spreading the Gospel. Just by talking to others. Just by inviting a friend to come to such a group with you, or to one of our dinners, or even – dare I say it – to church.
It’ll only work if we pass it on. If we are prepared to share the light.
One of the things that puts people off from just asking someone to come to church is that they think they might be asked to do more. That they will somehow be responsible for that person’s salvation or something.
Of course you will be responsible for them if you bring them to church. You will introduce them to others, accompany them to the coffee hour, but that’s it.
The parable of the sower tells us that all we have to do is sow the seed. God will do the rest. Their life is not our responsibility. It’s not our success that is paramount here.
We aren’t called to succeed, as Mother Teresa used to say, we are called to try.
Just asking someone to church is planting a seed. Just telling someone in trouble that you will pray with them is planting a seed. Dropping a card to someone who is ill is planting a seed.
And the seed, the message in other words, that you are sending has a power all on its own.
Samuel the High Priest of Israel went rather timidly to Bethlehem to see who it was had been selected by God to lead His people. He was afraid that King Saul might find out. David was the one. A young slip of a thing, too young to be given much responsibility, he had the lowliest job, caring for the flock.
Samuel, on God’s command, anointed this boy as the future king of Israel, and the boy was blessed by the spirit of God. The seed planted in David, that day, would lead him to grow in strength and maturity, and in obedience to God, and to learn from his experiences how to be king.
So, we are to try, one on one to forward the message we have been given. We are to trust that God will use what we do, to move in the heart of those so touched. And we are to have faith that when we do that we will be contributing to a worldwide movement of love for God and neighbour.
And that whatever we do, whatever we try, He will be there, assisting us.
I have often had the privilege of being called to be at the bedside of someone who is dying. I drive up to the house, or to the hospital, and there in my car, I just pray: ” Lord, I have no idea what I will find here, what the situation is, and what I have to do to bring comfort. Please guide me in what to say, and what to do.”
And He always has.
We all aren’t called to such serious moments.
But we can all reach out gently and simply to another.
Frankly that’s all we can do to counter Satan’s campaign to spread hatred of God and neighbour in the world..
Reach out without fear of rejection, without fear of failure.
You might remember one of Charles Schulz’s cartoons, featuring Charlie Brown and Lucy.
Charlie Brown is at bat. Strike three!. He has struck out again and slumps over to the bench.
” Rats, I’ll never be a big league player. I just don’t have it. All my life I have dreamed of being in the big leagues but I know I’ll never make it.”
Lucy turns to console him. “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too far ahead, What you need to do is set yourself more immediate goals.
He looks up,” Immediate goals?”
Lucy says,” Yes. Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you can walk out to the mound without falling down.”
We don’t have to be great. We don’t have to be famous. We don’t even have to succeed, frankly.
All we are asked to do is try.
That’s how God’s work will be done and how good will triumph over evil.
Jesus uses the example of the mustard tree whose seed is so small, and yet which grows into a large bushy plant with room for all sorts of birds to shelter in it.
God’s kingdom would grow to cover the whole earth. Jesus and that little band of brothers were the ones who would begin to plant the seeds that would make that happen.
We latter day disciples, are likewise entrusted with the task of sowing the seed, and tilling the soil.
The problem as I see it is that we have forgotten our original purpose.
As Christians we have the idea that what we are is a worshipping people, a people who worship in a church which we are entrusted with keeping open at all cost, with paying the bills, singing the hymns, and generally being in each other’s company.
And that idea of what a Christian does is a pretty nice notion, isn’t it? I’ll go for that.
But I believe we sometimes need to take a different look at things. We need to take a lateral rather than a linear view of Christianity.
See things differently.
Peter Hay, in his Book of Business Anecdotes, tells the story of marketing whiz Stanley Arnold who in the fifties, was working at Young & Rubicam, where he was asked to come up with a marketing campaign for Remington Rand. The company was among the most conservative in America. Its chairman at the time was retired General Douglas MacArthur.
Intimidated at first by a company that was so much a part of America, Arnold also found in that phrase – ‘so much part of America’ – the first inspiration for a campaign.
After thinking about it, he went to the New York offices of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane, and placed the ultimate odd-lot order: “I want to purchase,” he told the broker, “one share of every single stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange.” After a vice president tried to talk him out of it, the order was finally placed. It came to more than $42,000 for one share in each of the 1098 companies listed on the Big Board at the time. Arnold now took his diversified portfolio into a meeting of Remington Rand’s board of directors, where he argued passionately for a sweepstakes campaign with the top prize called ‘A Share in America.’
The winner would get an actual share in America. One share in every listed company!
The conservative old gentlemen shifted around in their seats and discussed the idea for a while. “But Mr. Arnold,” said one, “we are not in the securities business.” Said another, “We are in the shaver business.”
“I agree that you are not in the securities business,” said Arnold, “but I think you also ought to realize that you are not in the shaver business either. You are in the people business.”
They bought the idea.
See, we are not in the worshipping business, although that is what we do. We are not in the music business, although we like to sing our little hearts out. We are not in the real estate business, although we need a place to gather. We are not in the hospitality business although we do serve wine and bread, and after the service, coffee and cookies.
We are in the salvation business.
We are here to help others come to know the overpowering love of Jesus Christ and how he died to save us – to
make us free.
When people come to hear and accept that message then we will have done what we are really here for.
But I want to emphasize. That doesn’t mean we are responsible for the whole message. We don’t even have the responsibility of making sure they listen.
We have just got to plant the seed.
It’s not that complicated.
Oh, I know people like to make things complicated, don’t they? I knew a man once who used to tell everyone he was a horticultural propagationist.
He was a gardener for Pete’s sake!
We are not an evangelical propagationists.
You and I are simply someone who by a kind word or deed, or a casual invitation, simply puts someone in the way of God’s love.
And then leaves the rest to Him. Amen.