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Two Sundays before Lent-Sexagesima

March 1, 2011

“He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29 (NIV)

 

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who was, who is and who is to come”. Amen

 

When preparing the sermon I felt that this text filled me with much comfort. Comfort we need when we think we don’t know how to get people to come to church. How to make people in need of God, finds a place among us. Comfort when we don’t know if we’re doing the right things in the church, we all, as members of it. I hope this word today, can bring peace to your lives as well as brought to me.

Years ago, someone who wanted to make a cup of coffee had a lot to do. They had to grind coffee beans and place the grounds in a jar. They would have to light a fire in the stove in the kitchen and put a pot of water to boil. Once the pot had boiled, they would pour the water into the coffee jar. Then they would wait until the coffee had seeped. They would then serve the coffee in a cup and add milk or sugar to taste. Only then could they enjoy a good coffee. Today, however, making a coffee is all automatic. You can even buy coffee machines that do everything by themselves. They grind coffee beans, boil water, release hot steam on the coffee grounds, add sugar and milk to taste, froth and joyfully serve the coffee in a cup, all as they have been programmed to do. All you need to begin is to put in the coffee beans and then to wait for the end to enjoy a cup of coffee.

 

What does the 21st century automatic coffee machine have to do with agriculture in the 1st century? Jesus’ parable that we just heard comes from that context. Jesus took the material for his parables from the daily life situations of his environment. Jesus’ parables speak about plants, animals and people. What then, does this have to do with this coffee machine? The answer lies in two little words that are exactly in the middle of this parable: “by itself”. The original Greek word for this is “Automatos”, which means (for oneself, by itself). An automatic coffee machine is a machine that prepares a ready and finished cup of coffee by itself. And a labor field, we can say it is a divine automatic machine that produces wheat by itself. All you have to do to start is to throw the seed on the ground. Likewise, with the automatic coffee machine, all one needs to add are coffee beans.

 

 

While the automatic coffee machine is an achievement of human science, the labor field has always been as it is. Because of that, it would be foolish for a farmer to think that he would have to grow the grain by his own effort. It would be foolish if at night he could not sleep because he was thinking about the wheat and getting up and going out to see if he could do something to make the wheat grow. It would be foolish if during the day he would dig and try to make the wheat grow better. It would be foolish if he spent day and night worrying about how he might grow wheat without the need for his labor. On the contrary, Jesus says of the wise farmer, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Only when the grain is ripe must the farmer get down to work and so take his sickle and the harvest begins.

 

 

The story of the ‘automatic’ field is a parable of the kingdom of God, Jesus says. We found this parable in the midst of other parables about the kingdom of God. One is the familiar parable of the person who sows, where seed is the word of God that falls into the hearts of people. Similarly, we interpret our parable today: the word of God comes to man while listening to the good news of the Savior Jesus Christ. At this stage, people can and should take action: The gospel must be preached, it should reach the people! It is for this reason that Jesus gave the command to go and do mission work and ordered his disciples: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). When Christians baptize others and teach them the Gospel, they spread the good news word on land. What makes the word of God find its way into the hearts of the people? It does so by itself. People do not need to intervene. Here we cannot help. Here the Holy Spirit of God begins to work. The kingdom of God works automatically, no need to worry. How did Jesus describe the wise farmer? “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”

 

When a person wants another person to be saved, they can do nothing other than to announce the Gospel and wait and hope that the Word of God bears fruit in that person. Yes, that’s exactly what Jesus wants to teach us through this parable, which concerned the kingdom of God – that we have to wait with confidence. When it comes to the kingdom of God, we should not make plans or think like, for example, architects or builders would when building a house. When it comes to the kingdom of God, we should do as the wise farmer does: sow good seed in the ground and wait in hope for a good crop. The kingdom of God grows by itself, automatically, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The kingdom of God is more like an automatic coffee machine than the way of making coffee a hundred years ago. Do you want your neighbor to be saved? Then talk to him about Jesus, invite him to services and ask God that His word take root in his heart. Do you want your co-workers to be saved? Then show them something about the love of Jesus through your own words and deeds, pray for them and confidently leave all in God’s hands. If something does bear fruit will be seen on the Judgment Day. Do you want that your children and grandchildren be saved? Then read Bible stories to them and tell them about the man that many now want to silence: Jesus Christ. But remember this: you cannot force anything; there are no educational tricks that will ensure the faith. Just ask the Lord of the harvest that he make the seed grow in their hearts and allows them to bear fruits. This also applies when we here as a congregation are anxious because we want to win over others. In the end, we must realize that we can do nothing but sow the seeds, pray and wait confidently. If you want to do more for the emergence of a revival, then you will behave like foolish farmers that have not understood that in the field the fruit grows by itself, automatically.

 

 

What applies to the eternal kingdom of God, also applies in a figurative sense to our daily lives. There we also have to wait confidently. Hence, we should not force things because God works automatically. Of course, we must examine carefully what we can do and what God is doing automatically. I would like to illustrate by means of the disease: We can do much to prevent disease; we can be careful and maintain a healthy way of life. Even so, we may become sick. You can get right to the point that most doctors do not know what to do. So then we confidently hope in God and allow Him to work. We also know that sooner or later the body will pass away, like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground. This must be accepted. The soul, however, shall not perish, but will be cared for by Jesus for eternal life, until the day of harvest, where we will wake up with brand new bodies. Yes, this knowledge helps us to confidently expect, although we are sick or going through a necessity. And so we can ask with the words of Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference”. Let’s remember: we do what the Lord asks us, to speak of God, invite to church and pray for those who seek God so they can find a place in our church as well. Amen.

 

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