January 14, 2018: Under the Surface

Pastor Steve Mechem

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Mark 4:26-29 New Revised Standard Version
He also 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.”

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King Jr.

So, Jesus has come to teach about a new kingdom. It is unlike anything that anybody has ever seen or heard before.

This kingdom will come to fruition without wars and conquests and epic bloody battles.

This kingdom will not have borders.

This kingdom will not need a defense system or an army to protect it.

This kingdom will not so much subjugate its citizens as it will free them to live fully and completely.

This kingdom won't coin its own money; love is the currency of this kingdom.

This kingdom won’t collect taxes except the debt of love

This kingdom won’t strategize or plan to overthrow other kingdoms. There is no need for propaganda campaigns in this kingdom.

This kingdom will not have an hierarchy of governance unless the last shall be first and the first shall be last and the leader will be servant of all is an hierarchy.

This kingdom will be a kingdom where people puts others above themselves.

This kingdom will be a kingdom where justice goes to the underdog.

This kingdom will be a reality in which people are loved and accepted as they are.

This kingdom will be a reality wherein people support each other, care for each other, mourn with each other and celebrate with each other.

This kingdom is where God reigns and God’s will is pursued.

Jesus is trying to introduce this kingdom to people who cannot fathom how it works or when it will come to fruition.

After all, the people listening to Jesus understand kingdom as that which is maintained by force and subject to change when people with bigger weapons show up.

Jesus is striving to make clear that this new kingdom is new, and different, and doesn’t depend on horses and chariots.

And so, he tries to describe how the kingdom will come to be. He uses an analogy that everybody that he is talking to will understand.

The kingdom, says Jesus, is like a person who scatters seed. The seed is scattered and the person heads home.

A little rain comes and the seed seeps into the ground with the moisture. There something happens. The seed scatterer doesn’t understand it, but trusts that it is happening.

Under the surface, the tiny seed somehow grows roots. These roots take hold and the seed produces a small plant that will break through the surface. With water and sunshine, the plant continues to grow.

The seed scatterer may not know fancy words like zygote, or embryo or germination, but he or she does understand that if the seed is scattered, some of it disappears under ground and then, like magic, a plant appears.

Then the scatterer, becomes a caretaker fending of critters and keeping the plant weed free until the plant is ready to be used at which point the scatterer becomes a harvester.

Jesus’ analogy of the kingdom as seed planted probably left many listeners scratching their heads as it may leave a few of us scratching our heads as well.

Is the kingdom the seed, or the scatterer, or the harvest? hmmm.

Yes, and more.

The Kingdom is the process.

You see, the way the world works, one power overcomes the previous power to become the present power. And then another power will rise and overcome the present power to become the new power. This is how the world has worked since the founding of tribes and nations. Violent battles for turf and resources and people. That is the Kingdom building that the world knows.

But, the kingdom Jesus teaches as a unfolding reality, works differently. Its not violent or noisy or dependent on having the biggest weapon. It works quietly, and under the surface, without fanfare, as lives are changed and transformed by the actions of people (seed scatterers if you will) who choose

love over hate
acceptance over rejection
hope over despair
mercy over malice
comfort over grief
selflessness and sacrifice over narcissism.

The process understands that seeds are scattered through lives lived and that God then does the work of grace. Much of it under the surface, in the heart.

Jesus’ listeners surely wondered how this new kingdom, a kingdom based in a reality different than the one they knew was possible. But Jesus kept talking about it. And told one story after another describing it- a merchant finding a pearl, a trespasser finding a treasure, and child finding his parent again, a wedding feast where the outcast and left behind become guests of honor, weeds and crops and nets and fish.

Its hard to know how many of Jesus’ listeners actually got it- could they overcome the reality of their situation to know that a new kingdom was indeed breaking in, a kingdom of love and grace and forgiveness and hope?

I wonder, in 2018, in our present climate, how hard it is for us to believe that God is still bringing that kingdom to reality- a kingdom of love and grace and forgiveness and hope into a world of crassness and violence and hate?

But as a follower of Jesus I have no choice.
Where there is hate, love must be sown.
Where there is cynicism, hope must planted.
Where there is despair in the face of our present reality, a seeds the emerging kingdom must be scattered

by people like you and me,
who believe that God is good,
and who believe that God is at work.

As Dr. King was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, he said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Unarmed truth and unconditional love are kingdom ideas. And Dr. King asserts his steadfast belief that they will have the final word.

The importance of scattering seeds of love and justice, kindness and mercy in our present reality is evidenced in the promise that God is at work in the process, under the surface of our world’s dysfunction, to bring about a kingdom of unarmed truth and unconditional love.