Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/17/12 Sermon

Mark 4: 26-34

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to Thy Sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen


Comedian Bill Cosby, in his book Fatherhood, talks about his dad who when he became a grandfather, couldn’t wait to give money to his kids.


 But Cosby writes: When I was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, my dad would tell me the whole story of his life. How he got up at 5 A.M. when he was seven years old and walked 23 miles to milk 90 cows.


And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his little hand and then walk 8 miles to the nearest can. All for 5 cents a month.


I don’t know what it is but there seems to be some relationship about being a father and telling some extraordinary stories to your children.


For example, I’m not quite sure how it happened but my children somehow got the idea that some scars I have on my back from surgery actually came from a shark attack.

I can also recall another father, my own dad, who told us that the reason he had a bald spot on the top of his head was because a hammer fell off a ladder and hit him in the head.


Sometimes we can spice up or stretch the ordinary truth a little bit in order to make it into something extraordinary…………


Now this morning in our scripture, we see the story of Jesus telling a parable that really is a pretty ordinary story. I mean the whole imagery here is so plain. Jesus is talking about basic gardening 101.

A gardener or famer scatters seeds on the ground, the seed sprouts and grows. First it’s a stalk, then it has a head, then a kernel until it’s ripe and then it’s harvested.


Now I don’t know about you but this is some serious bed time reading here. And that might be OK but Jesus is telling the disciples and us that this is what the Kingdom of God is like.


And I’m thinking, “What a snoozer. How ordinary can it get!”


And things don’t get much better either as we read Jesus tell us another parable about a mustard seed that’s really small but when it’s planted in the ground it turns into a great bush.


Whoa! Stop the presses--- that’s exciting and extraordinary stuff!! A little bitty seed grows into a big bush.

I mean couldn’t Jesus spice it up a little?

Why not a big redwood tree--- those things grow 300 feet high? Now that, I might be able to get excited about. But an ordinary bush just doesn’t seem to do it!


And I wonder how the disciples thought about this as well.


This parable was most likely told during Jesus’ first year of his ministry. And it was probably a tough time for the disciples following Jesus.

The Jewish leaders were surely starting to speak against Jesus. Family and friends were turning on them.


Surely the disciples were in need of something they could hang their hat on to help them against the pressures they were facing.


They were following who they thought was going to bring forth a great kingdom here on earth. But Jesus gives them a shrub!


Of course, I do wonder whether Jesus might have been tempted to spice up this kingdom of God talk.


After all, surely he knew that the world we live in is all about the extraordinary?


I mean in sports, all of us are captivated with pitchers who pitch perfect games, LeBron James scoring 50 points, or 17 year olds contending for the U.S. Open golf championship.


And in the business, political or entertainment world we’re charmed with those who have made it to the top reaching great levels of power and wealth and fame.


We love the whole idea of being extraordinary.


And we seek after it ourselves. We can want extraordinary houses, extraordinary toys to play with-----so we go buy our lottery tickets hoping for an extraordinary jackpot.


We want our children to be extraordinary intellectually or athletically. We want to take extraordinary vacations and we want our marriages to be extraordinary with that fairy tale magic dust.


And we want others to see how extraordinary we are by our work ethic. We glorify showing off how busy we are working extra long hours and take on more activities than we can handle.


And this mentality finds its way in the church. Christians seek to be super saints showing others just how extraordinary they are in their abilities.


Being extraordinary is a huge part of what this world is all about.


Surely Jesus knew that this talk of ordinary seeds growing into a bush was BORING!!


But then again, maybe Jesus was being intentional in telling these ordinary parables.


Maybe Jesus wanted us to reflect on our understanding of what is ordinary and what is extraordinary.


Could it be that this parable isn’t as ordinary as we might think it is?


Now when we take a closer look at this scripture what we see is that this parable is absolutely the opposite of the way of this world.


In the first parable, the story about a gardener who scatters seed and it grows, what’s interesting to note is that whether the gardener is awake or asleep the seed sprouts and grows.


No matter how much the gardener fusses over the seed,  working in the miracle gro, spraying it with pesticide, or changing pots, or moving it into the sun the gardener does not cause it to grow.


The gardener’s ability has nothing to do with it.


And that makes this parable absolutely contrary to our definition of extraordinary.


Instead of it being about us and our abilities, this parable is about what God does---It’s about God’s grace.


Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God, is not about us being extraordinary by working hard, showing off our abilities and competing to be the best.


The kingdom is instead about receiving.


It’s about letting go of this burdensome way of trying to be strong and extraordinary and proving ourselves so that we can be free---free to live in peace and fulfillment in the so-called ordinary moments of life….


There was a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. "Why aren't you out there fishing?" he asked.     


"Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman.

"Why don't you catch more fish than you need?" the rich man asked.


"What would I do with them?"


"You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish.


You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like me."


The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?"


"You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist.


And the fisherman replied…"What do you think I'm doing now?"


When we become free from the world’s way of trying to do more, be more, earn more, prove more, show more, a burden is lifted off of us that opens the way for us to experience the grace of an ordinary life.

Frederick (Beekner) Buechner, the great author and theologian wrote about this in his book “Listening to Your Life”.


 Beekner said ordinary life itself is grace.


He said that if you let go of trying to be extraordinary and instead paid attention to the ordinary things with your eyes and ears wide open, life itself would reveal extraordinary vistas:


“Taking your children to school, kissing your wife goodbye, eating lunch with a friend, doing a decent day’s work, hearing the rain patter against the window, all were events where God’s hidden presence were there to see”.


You see, when we stop trying to be extraordinary and stop being disappointed that we aren’t extraordinary we are able to recognize God and see that our everyday, ordinary lives are really extraordinary.


In fact, what happens is that we begin to see that our everyday lives actually become parables themselves.

For example your life may be:

The Parable of the widow who got out of bed and cried only 12 times that day.


The Parable of the Crabby Boss and the Christian Coworker.


The Parable of the dad who got off the couch to play catch with his kids.

-- The Parable of the Kids Who Won't Clean Up Their Rooms and the Mother Who Is Threatening to Ground Them for Life.

The Parable of the family with Overwhelming "Bills To Pay"

The Parable of the Pastor who needs to live the life of the serenity prayer.


You see, each day of our life, every moment is indeed extraordinary.


In our boredom and sadness, or in the excitement and joy, there is a parable going on that has eternal implications that matter and that are precious.


And when we realize that and embrace it each day, the next parable that Jesus tells, the parable of the mustard seed growing into a bush is also extraordinary.


When we learn to receive God’s grace and let go of trying to be extraordinary we are free to then become sowers of seeds of grace to others.


Instead of being dissatisfied and discontented, we can then get to the business of what really matters which is scattering seeds of grace to others.


Of course, we still have to be cautious about this as well; because a lot of us can fall into a mentality that we are to be extraordinary supersaints called to change people and change the world.

But when we are truly rooted in the first parable of grace, allowing God to be the extraordinary One, we are freed to simply go about scattering small seeds and letting God do the work from there.


I don’t know how many of you have ever seen the movie Oh, God! starring George Burns and John Denver.


Burns played God. Denver played a grocery store manager named Jerry. God decides to use Jerry to communicate his love to the world.

Jerry reluctantly holds a news conference to deliver God’s message. He goes on the Tonight Show and it all eventually lands him in a courtroom where God takes the stand in his defense.


Toward the end of the movie, the two evaluate the success of their mission. Denver, the manager, beats himself up and judges it to be a failure.


“Oh, I don’t think so,” says God. “You never know; a seed here and a seed there, something will catch hold and grow.”

As Christians, all we are called to do is scatter ordinary seeds. God takes it from there.


We aren’t called to be extraordinary fixers of people, fixers of churches, fixers of communities or schools.


 In fact our good intentions in this end up being more problematic than good. We’ve all probably heard the old proverb that hell is paved with good intentions.

Our call is to simply sow seeds and let God be God. And when we simply do that, extraordinary things can happen:


Last week we celebrated children’s Sunday and gave thanks to our Sunday school teachers. They are indeed scattering seeds that may take hold.


I’m reminded of a true story about a pastor in a large and influential congregation who was asked what had inspired him. "Oh, it was a Sunday school teacher!" he replied.

"I don’t remember a thing he taught us, but I do remember how much he loved us. He is the reason I am in the ministry. Five other students from that class are also ministers."


He added, when he died there were only about fifty people present at the funeral; most of his friends had already died. But what a man! What a Christian! He loved God and showed it by his love and his integrity.


No "great shakes" by the world’s standards, he was like a little mustard seed planted in an obscure place in the world, but spreading his branches in all directions.


You and I as recipients of God’s grace can make an extraordinary difference in people’s ordinary lives when we become simple scatterers of mustard seeds to others.


Every day, in our ordinary, parable lives there are opportunities to sow seeds of love and kindness, goodness and gentleness, humility and mercy.

We simply need to reach in our bags overfilled with God’s grace and scatter those seeds we’ve been given.


In closing this morning, ask yourself where you need to be freed from trying to be extraordinary. Where do you need to let go of proving yourself? Where do you need to become a receiver of God’s grace?


Today be reminded that we don’t need to seek after the world’s definition of being extraordinary; because in the kingdom of God, you already are.

Be free from the burden and expectations that you put on yourself and on others so that you might fully live in the parable of your so-called ordinary, daily life.


Jesus came to scatter the seeds of his coming kingdom.


Let us receive those seeds that we might not only become recipients of his grace but also that we might be scatterers of his grace to others.


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen