Scattering Life

Scattering Life

Pastor Mitch Coggin June 16, 2024 Pentecost 4B

I’ve talked a lot about the church lately, and today’s scriptures might be an opportunity to talk about our individual faith, our individual spiritual moorings, our individual spiritual struggles, and what impact we make in our own spiritual lives that we don’t notice.

In the face of all of our trials and tribulations, Paul reminds us that transformation is possible when we invite Christ into our lives and enable God to make us a new creation from the inside out, letting go of our anxieties, doubts, and fears.

Last Sunday, Linda and I passed a gentleman carrying a cardboard sign near the intersection of Cook and Pandora. As we slowly passed, he made eye contact with me. My window was down and I nodded to him and smiled. I don’t know about you, but I always have tension inside when I’m not sure what might be the kindest response to someone’s need.

We were stopped at the traffic light and the gentleman walked back past our car, leaned close to my window and said, “Don’t forget to tell each other you love one another before you go to sleep tonight.” I smiled and was reminded how important that is to do. He offered a great gift to me that I could have dismissed as insignificant.

In Mark’s gospel, we read two parables describing the kingdom of God. The Kingdom is God’s work within us and among us. Jesus’ followers knew only the kingdom of Caesar based on power and control. When we judge people and circumstances by power, by money, by appearance, by connection, we will miss out on those who may carry the good gifts of God, like the man I met on Cook street. Jesus was introducing another kind of kingdom using something as simple and familiar as seeds.

Jesus says the kingdom of God is as if someone scatters seeds on the ground and then goes about their daily routine. When the seeds sprout and grow, the sower is surprised at the results. We often feel like we are not doing enough or wonder if we are doing the right thing. The parable reminds us that the kingdom of God works in ways we often don’t notice or expect.

In the second parable, Jesus compares His kingdom to a mustard seed. The parable speaks of the significance of the seed, the tiny seed that grew into a productive plant. Therefore, no seed is or should be seen as insignificant; each contains life within it.

Professor of New Testament Amy Jill Levine cautions that some things need to be left alone. Not everything needs our constant attention. We are part of a larger process and when we start an action, we need to get out of the way. We are not always the focus; sometimes we are the facilitator for something bigger than ourselves.

Our difficulty arises in confusing the ways of the kingdom with our ordinary way of doing things. The parables shatter the illusion that the fate of the kingdom of God is in our hands. For me, the challenge is to give up my anxiety over “what if this happens or doesn’t happen?” In my fretfulness, I wonder what more I need to do. The parable says results are not up to us.

What if we trusted God’s working in our lives even when we aren’t sure that is possible? What if we believed that successful growth has little to do with our maneuverings? I suspect that we might be amazed at what God can and will do without our input or direction. Suddenly, the focus is not on “look at what we did,” but instead, “look what God did.”

In the Corinthians’ passage, Paul reminds us that we live by faith, not by what we can see. Is that what the sower experienced when he sowed the seed and went about his daily business?

Walter Brueggemann writes, “When we walk by sight, we can stride boldly and quickly. But when we walk by faith, we walk carefully, taking one step at a time because we cannot see ahead. The capacity of society to label, to dismiss, can be done quickly, because we think we see everything at a glance. Walking by faith requires more attentiveness.” Like my experience with the gentleman on the corner, when we live by faith, we will come to value and be surprised by what might be growing that we cannot see.

Brueggemann suggests that the tiny seed is like “the dismissed, and the devalued, those who seem not to matter. The mustard seed becomes God’s new creation. God has reached out to us in our nothingness and made us new.”

The Corinthian passage ends with, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This becomes our challenge, to see and value persons and circumstances differently. We are called to recognize that every person can be a new creation and a carrier of God’s power for life. When the kingdom of God is within us, we are transformed.

Frederick Buechner tells in his book Listening to Your Life, “Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you…because that is just what you are powerless to do. Remember that the lives of other people are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business… Even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought.”

What are your mustard seeds that need to be scattered and left for God to grow?

Amy Jill Levine concludes that the kingdom of heaven is found in what we might call “our own backyard,” in the generosity of nature and the daily working of men and women. We don’t need to ask when the kingdom comes or where it is, but trust that it will come in its own good time– as long as it takes for seed to sprout. The Kingdom of God is already present in the world. The kingdom is present when humanity and nature work together, and we do what we were put here to do– to go out on a limb to provide for others and ourselves as well.