Sermon By The Rev. John A. Mennell:
Click on the link above for the audio.
June 17, 2012 – 3rd Sunday After Pentecost – Year B
1st Reading: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm: Psalm 20
2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
The professional competition in my house is pretty fierce. Usually friendly,
but always pretty fierce. A couple of months ago my beloved partner was
trying to update her church’s website. She was struggling with technology,
personnel, design and content that seem to be at issue in just about everything
that we try to do. And then, finally, by the grace of God, she had a new
website, that was really pretty darn nice. It incorporated pictures and videos
and she could easily update even though she is not particularly fluent in
HTML – the language of the web.
As she shared her new website with me, I was really quite impressed.
There was only one real issue with the site as far as I could tell. It was better
than our St. Luke’s site. I told her that, at first admiringly, but then it started
to bug me. As people would make suggestions about how our website could
be better or pointed out other problems, I decided it was time to revamp the
St. Luke’s website. Her project had given me the seed of the idea, but now it
needed to germinate. And NOW was the operative issue.
Even after we had the basic design of the new site, there was still a lot of
work to do. Our site has more than 75 different pages. I wanted the
completed product but I didn’t want to wait. Last week I told you it would be
ready this week. It’s not. It’s still a work in progress. But I want the full,
robust final answer now!
I think we all get this way at one time or another. We get the idea about
something we want, or something we want to build, and the more we think
about the more we want it right now. We are not always patient. Not always
willing to go through all of the steps needed to get to where we want to be
even if the potential is there.
I think sometimes our faith lives are like that too. We want to be closer to
God. We want to be in relationship with Jesus. We want to achieve some
higher level of transcendence. We want to experience the peace the passes all
understanding. And we want it now. Our lives demand it now. Because now
is when we have issues. Now is when we are stressed. Now is when we are
sick. Now is when we have problems. Now is when we want the full exciting
maturity of our faith to carry us through whatever is going on. Now.
But the Gospel today gives us a different perspective on what it is like to
grow spiritually. I gotta tell you, this is what I love about the Bible. We get
these stories that are thousands of years old and they speak to us today where
we are. No, Jesus does not mention website development in any of the
Gospels. The iphone is strangely not mentioned in the Bible either. In fact
the biggest appearance of any kind of apple product is early on in the book of
Genesis, but we wont go into that now.
So Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. We are going
to cover a lot of territory with this little mustard seed and this little parable
that compares that seed to the kingdom of God. What Jesus says in this telling
of the mustard seed is that the seed – the smallest of the seed on the earth can
grow into a great shrub. What it doesn’t say is how long it is going to take!
Now one of the points that I want to make – one that I tend to repeat – is
that the Kingdom of god is something that is present. It is the here and now if
we choose to see it and experience. Yes, with Jesus we are promised life ever
after for eternity, but I am way too impatient to hold that out as my ideal
objective. The kingdom of heaven is here and now. It is the God that we can
experience everyday. It is the peace that passes all understanding that wraps
us in a Holy embrace. It is the ongoing creation that never ceases to amaze us.
This is the kingdom of God that is here. It is the journey of faith that each of
us is on now – seeking and serving Jesus with the particular gifts that we have.
And that kingdom of God is not fully formed – or more importantly starts
small and is full of potential. This small seed – just a millimeter or two in
diameter – can grow into a tree or shrub that is 20 feet tall – but can have
roots that go down 60 feet. The kingdom of God is full of potential. The
kingdom of God starts small. The kingdom of God can grow beyond dreams
But none of it happens overnight.
Look at what Jesus says about this seed and the seeds in the story just
before it. The Kingdom of God is as if some one scattered seed and would
rise day and night. Day and Night. Day and night. Day and night. Are you
with me here? Even after these seeds that are chock full of potential are
scattered about, we have to wait before we see anything. Not even a sprout.
It’s back to the website – or any project that we have – or our faith lives.
We want the full blown results ASAP. Right now. But it takes time. It often
takes effort. It takes energy.
The opportunity and encouragement that this offers for us is that we can
start small. We do not have to have the whole thing figured out right away. It
is a wonderful opportunity for us, regardless of where we are on out faith
journeys. There is always the opportunity to start something new. But to start
small – and be patient – knowing that the results – the change, the
transformation will come – but it will only come over time.
One quick example is prayer. If I had a nickel for every time someone said,
“Well, I don’t want to ask God for that – it’s too small.” I am not necessarily
advocating that praying to get a good parking spot is the ideal path to eternal
glory, but I do want to suggest that no prayer is too small. No starting point is
too insignificant. Look at the potential of the mustard seed. We have to start
small – no matter how impatient we are and how much we want to get to the
I want to go back for a minute to the great potential of this mustard seed.
Mustard seeds get a lot of play in the Gospels. This parable that we have here
is also in Luke and Matthews Gospel. All three of synoptic gospels pretty
much quote Jesus as saying that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,
the smallest of all seeds, but then grows into something so much more. Luke
and Matthew also give it a slightly different take later on in their stories. Luke
says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to a
mulberry tree, be uprooted and thrown into the sea. Matthew takes it one step
further and says you can move mountains. It all starts with this little speck of
You can have just a little bit of faith, but if you don’t do anything with it
nothing will happen. Our job is to sow this seed of faith. To nurture it. To
watch it grow. And we know when we have watched anything grow – you
can only see that over time.
So many of us want so much more in from our faith lives. We want
something that brings us more peace. We want to continue to grow in our
relationship with Jesus – with God however we know God. We are on this
journey where no next step is too small. We need to have the perseverance
and patience, but the potential is there. Or rather the potential is here in the
kingdom of God that we share.