Our June 13 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The June 20 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services.
We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.
Ezekiel 17:22-24 | Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14
2 Cor. 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17 | Mark 4:26-34
“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.” What is interesting about that section of today’s text is that we still don’t know how a seed will decide to sprout and grow. It has been about 2,000 years since Jesus said these words, and we still don’t know! So much for how far we have come, humans still don’t have the answers to some basic questions. The more that I look into the field of physics, the more you discover that things are “probabilities,” and not “knowns.” And that isn’t the only field. Still, especially this time of year, it is amazing to watch plants grow from those little tiny seeds. Then, you plant them in the ground, and in the night, and the rabbits eat them.
Jesus’ descriptions in the parables today are not really about seeds. He is describing the kingdom of God. We don’t really know how that comes either. We will always ascribe that work to the Holy Spirit. And we don’t know how the Spirit works either. Just that it does, and things happen according to God’s plan. Indeed, in that sense we declare both our ignorance of events and our hope in the future.
Jesus use of the Mustard seed is telling, and accurate in ways. How does a mustard seed grow into a tall bush (and I have seen them up about 4 to 5 feet)? A seed needs three things to grow: good soil, water and sunlight. Put those together on a mustard seed, and in a while, you will have a bush large enough for birds to build a nest in. They are everywhere in California. Or, you plant a seed of mustard, wait a couple of centuries, and they are in just about everyone’s kitchen in yellow bottles. Mustard is the second most popular spice in the world. Pepper is number one, and its seeds aren’t much larger.
To build the kingdom of God, and especially personal spiritual growth (here is the importance of personal devotions – but it also includes worship), also takes three things in addition to the Gospel, the Word of God. Luther said that he had labored hard to put the word of God into everyday language so that hearing and reading the scriptures would inform their biblical spirituality. That is the gift of the Word of God which Luther gave to his followers. But, he also recommended three rules to aid in the development and understanding of faith, which he said that he learned from Psalm 119 (which, I always thought was too long and boring, so I didn’t get these from it). The three rules are: prayer, meditation and overcoming the assaults of the devil. I will explain, take notes.
First, “one must distrust one’s own ability to reason and submits oneself to prayer from the heart, so that one will understand the scriptures through Christ by the Holy Spirit.” When you read or hear a Bible text, pray about it; to seek out not just the surface meanings; but to delve deeper into the text. That is especially true of parables. Jesus’ parables are very deep. This mustard seed parable is a good example. Every time I read it, the first thing that comes to my mind is, “What kind of faith does a mustard seed have?” And, the answer is always the same, “faith that it is a mustard seed.” That isn’t much to go on! But, it is enough for a mustard seed. Pray, and think deeper.
Second, Luther wrote, “One must meditate by using all one’s senses, especially that of repetitive hearing, to experience the external word for understanding.” When most people think about meditation, they think about Buddhist monks and Hindu gurus sitting in a trance, slowly saying “Om” to themselves. That is Eastern meditation, not practiced in the Western religions, for good reasons. That isn’t the type of meditation Luther is referring to. The oldest form of Christian meditation was simply going about your regular business, but in your head repeating Bible verses, over and over; and relating them to your life. That is what St. Paul means when he writes about “unceasing prayer.” Sound difficult? Not really. I do it all of the time. I read the lessons for Sunday on the Tuesday morning before, usually. I then spend the rest of the week thinking about them during whatever I am doing. Then, Friday or Saturday, I write the sermon (hopefully), after having thought about the texts for a couple of days. I do more of a weekly devotion than a daily one. Try it. It is called, “living the text.”
Third, Luther wrote, “One does not fully experience the sweetness of the word unless one suffers the assaults of the devil. Only when one suffers the assaults of the devil through temptation can one” fully experience the sweetness of the word. Does anyone not suffer temptation in their lives? If you are praying and meditating (as I described it) about a Bible story, you will be surprised how often you will realize during this that you are being tempted to some other purpose. Temptations, are what Luther meant by assaults of the devil. That makes sense, since the devil is referred to as “The Tempter.”
Doing these things, living literally in the Word of God, helps that little tiny mustard seed of faith, (which was probably planted at your baptism) grow into a fine strong shrub of faith in God and Christ, as the Holy Spirit works in you. The kingdom comes, on its own, and grows. That faith will even be strong enough for you to rest, and place your nest in. A place to, rest secure in the faith and knowledge of the blessings which God our Father has given us: the gift of His Word, His Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and the ongoing care and guidance of the Holy Spirit. For the kingdom of God comes, it comes even to us.