Farmer Evans was driving his John Deere tractor along the road with a trailer load of fertilizer. Tim, a little boy of eight, was playing in his yard when he saw the farmer and asked, 'What've you got in your trailer?' 'Manure,' Farmer Evans replied. 'What are you going to do with it?' asked Tim. 'Put it on my strawberries,' answered the farmer. Tim replied, 'You ought to come and eat with us, we put ice-cream on our strawberries.’
I chose a story about a farmer today because there are several references to growing crops, plants and trees in our Scripture. Farmer Evans, the one in my story, was tending to his strawberries, trying to help them grow. While Farmer Evans was doing his part, he was relying on God’s creation which allowed the plant to grow as it interacted with the soil and rain to produce a fruitful harvest. Jesus told two parables about the Kingdom of God. He spoke about the growth of plants and the harvesting of food. We learn that God tends to all of the plants in this garden we call earth. I ask you to consider how God has tended to you, to think about your growth in God’s word and to contemplate your trust in God.
In Mark’s gospel when Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee his first words were ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.’ (Mark1:15). We often think about the Kingdom of God as something that happens at the end of the world. Do you think there are the signs of the Kingdom of God in the world today?
Ezekiel described God’s work. Ezekiel spoke of God taking a small sprig from the tall cedar and planting it in the mountains. That tree brought good things, fruit for one. Ezekiel also wrote about God’s protection. God would take care of the people of Israel.
In our time, we might imagine God providing the wisdom of the Giant sequoia tree. A sequoia in California called General Sherman is estimated to be around 2,500 years and it is 275 feet tall. What has that sequoia seen that could bring us good news? How majestic it is? How might that majesty remind us of God’s great goodness for us?
While the Kingdom of God will come at the end of time, I think that Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth then, and to us now. My image of the Kingdom of God is a place where there is no war, a place where people love each other and care for the poor and needy. It doesn’t fully exist yet. I wonder if even now God is bringing us to the place I imagine.
Jesus gave us some clues about what the Kingdom of God will be like. I am still left with questions. Jesus spoke first of a sower planting seeds and amazingly while the sower lived his normal life, this great garden grew and provided a fruitful harvest. Jesus spoke about the gift that God has given us. We receive all of the sustenance from the ground and yet we do little work to attain it. God is always working, always growing, always building. The Kingdom of God is about God’s work not so much about ours. God is always working to bring us closer, to teach us about God’s love and to share it with others. We come and sit in thanksgiving and appreciation as God builds the kingdom around us. As we listen and study God helps us to know what we should do, how we should live and gives us peace in the midst of it all.
In the second parable, Jesus referred to a tiny seed which when planted grew into a large bush, a mustard tree. The mustard tree doesn’t come to its full size immediately, so it may take time for God to grow God’s kingdom on earth. I always wish for the Kingdom to be here now. But God’s way is not my way.
Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador wrote about the Kingdom of God.
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us”.
Maybe we are not meant to fully understand the kingdom that God plans for us. The mustard tree became a place where the birds could go and live and survive and be cared for. That description was also in Ezekiel’s message today, the birds are one way Scriptures describe God’s love for those who follow God. For us who follow Jesus.
The TV personality, Fred Rogers, described this Kingdom of God, “I'm fairly convinced that the Kingdom of God is for the broken-hearted. You write of 'powerlessness.' Join the club, we are not in control. God is.” In a way all of us are broken hearted for we have been hurt and we struggle. Fred Rogers was telling us that we are comforted by God when we are in need. God is always there for us. Fred Rogers reminds us that God is the ruler of the universe and we are not. We have to give up the idea that we are in control of things. We may plant a seed but it is God who causes it grow. Our work matters only a little in the grand scheme of things.
As we ponder the mystery of the Kingdom of God, and the fact that God is the one leading and we are not, it is easy to fall into the trap of saying we should do nothing. After all God is in charge and we are not. God grows the Kingdom of God while we rest. Actually, the answer is that we seek to do God’s will in thanksgiving for what God has already given us. We want to bring God’s Kingdom here because of God’s love for us.
The passage in 2 Corinthians says it so well. “the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all… And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” We are urged on by the love and the actions of Jesus, by his very sacrifice for us. We know that our actions are only a part of what must be done and yet we do it anyway. We never know for sure what we should do and we often wish we could do more. We continue to try. Paul reminds us that we walk by faith and not by sight. We must trust that God will take care of things.
I return to the words of Oscar Romero. You may remember that during the civil war in El Salvador Oscar Romero decided to speak out against the government which he believed was committing atrocities, killing the people of their own country. After a particularly forceful sermon, he was killed. Oscar Romero’s words and actions did not end the fighting in his lifetime but the fighting eventually ended. Before his death, Oscar Romero wrote this,
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith…
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
There are times when I wonder, when I feel at a loss because I wish for the world to come together and live in love. But today we realize that we are not in charge, we are only to do our part. We are simply expected to do what we can and pray for the rest. It may be as simple as providing water to the homeless during the summer heat.
In our evening prayers there is a passage that speaks so clearly to this,
It is evening after a long day
What has been done has been done
what has not been done has not been done.
Let it be
We do our work and trust in God.
Mother Teresa worked with the poor in Calcutta for most of her life. She struggled and had dark days of her own. A reporter once reminded her that despite her best efforts she would never be able to take care of all the poor people in Calcutta. Mother Teresa responded, “I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful”
We don’t understand everything about the Kingdom of God. But we do know that God is in charge and we are not. Jesus told us that he came to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Let us trust that God continues to make that happen. Let’s be willing to do our part. And when all is said and done, let us trust in God for what we have done has been done. The rest is up to God. Let it be in God’s loving arms. Amen.