THE 4TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Ezekiel 17:22-24 Thus says the Lord God: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil
And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
 And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth,  yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.  He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
I joyfully marvel today both as a father in the flesh and a father in the Spirit, when I see what has happened to so many little ones that I have held in my arms over the font, who have grown into young men and women, all while I slept and rose over the last twenty years. How it happened I don’t know, but since I don’t have to bend down to look into their eyes anymore, I know that it has just happened to happen and that’s all I can say.
Much the same thing happens every year out in my garden. I drag the edge of my hand through the soil. I place the precious seed into the ground, cover it up and gently pat it down. I water and I wait. For the first few days I look at the bed with hope, knowing full well that nothing will have happened and then I kind of forget about it. I sleep and I rise until the day comes, when walking out in my garden, I see small green shoots breaking out of the warm earth.
Surprised. Joyfully surprised. It’s the only way I can describe my feelings in that moment. joyfully surprised at the miracle … the mystery of life. I’ve almost forgotten the day when I placed the seed into the ground. Nothing seemed to come of it in those first few days, but all the while in the ground, the Lord was unfolding life’s mystery, as that dried up little seed grew in its hidden way, until it lifted its sleepy head out of its earthen bed to greet the rising sun.
The Lord Jesus connects up this mysterious moment with the kingdom of God. The seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The earth by itself produces first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. All from the tiniest little seed, a dried up little kernel, that could be lost in the palm of your hand and the wind could easily blow away. How anyone could say there is no God, no author, planner of life, with this miracle unfolding year after year in this one little corner of the universe, I do not know.
He knows not how, the earth by itself . The farmer, the gardener knows all to well that there’s absolutely nothing that he does to make life sprout and grow out of that little seed. He can plant it, water it and nowadays he can even fertilize and spray it, but he can’t make it grow. He can’t unleash the life that’s hidden in that dried up little seed. Only One can make it happen, give it life, grant the growth. Some would say that the life is hidden in the seed, but who hid it there? And who unleashes it in one case and not another? Only One.
God’s grace in His kingdom, that’s what Jesus’ parable is all about, God’s grace that gives life without our work. As the seed sprouts and grows by the will and by the power of One alone so too does the Kingdom of God. Paul may plant, Apollos water, but God and God alone grants the growth. The Word of God goes out, as the Lord wills it. He scatters His seed far and wide. Without question there is life in that seed - eternal life in that seed, but God has put the life in it and He alone makes it sprout and grow.
I can’t make it grow. I can stand all I want at the end of my garden willing every seed to sprout, take root and push its head up out of the earth but my will, no matter how strong … no matter how committed cannot make that happen. If it could, the whole countryside would be dotted with farmers all standing at the edge of their fields doing just that, but they of all people know that, all that you can do is put the seed in the ground and go to sleep and rise and wait, for the blade, the ear, and the full grain.
So too with the Kingdom of God, beloved. We cannot make God’s kingdom come. We cannot will it or work it into being. We cannot make the seed grow, that power lies with God and God alone. I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him. The Holy Spirit has to do that in me, in others and in our world. The seed must simply lie in the ground. All I can do is sleep and rise and let God grant the growth.
It doesn’t depend on me. It depends on God, which is a very good thing since all that I do eventually falls apart but what God does lasts forever. What I’m supposed to do doesn’t always get done, but God’s Word never comes back to Him empty. From beginning to end it is all God’s work. The Father gives the seed. The Son plants it. The Holy Spirit makes it grow. The Father gives His Son. The Son gives His life. The Holy Spirit gives that life to us. The blade, the ear, the grain in the ear - it’s all God’s work. All I can do is sleep and rise and let God grant the growth.
Where I get into trouble, and I get into trouble a lot, is when I start to think that the Kingdom depends on me, that somehow, someway I have got to make the seed grow. Time and again, there I am standing at the end of the row in my garden thinking that somehow I can make it happen. It all sounds pretty foolish when you put it that way but when it comes to God’s kingdom, for some reason, I can think that this is all very reasonable, that somehow I can get my act together in my own spiritual life, or that I can get others to get their act together, or that somehow I can get our world’s act together.
Repent. Yes, I need to repent of all that because believing that just crushes me to the ground, which is what always happens when you take up God’s job. You’re shoulders are never broad enough. When it comes to God’s kingdom, beloved, we need to see Christ on His cross, suffering and dying for the world and then there can be no question about whether or not we’re up to the job. If it takes the eternal Son taking up flesh and blood … if it takes His death, His resurrection, His ascension … if it takes the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, then how on earth could little old you or me ever get the job done?
It doesn’t depend on me or you. It depends on God. This gracious truth comes to us in the Lord’s body and blood today. It comes to lift us up where we have been crushed to the ground. As the Lord feeds us with His body and blood He reminds us of all that He has done for us and all that He is doing for us. He reminds us about the growth that He is granting by His almighty power, so that we can rejoice in His goodness and trust in His faithfulness. He reminds us here with every bite of the bread and sip of the cup, that though many things may lie hidden to our eyes, His good work goes on, and one day we will sleep and then rise to be joyfully surprised by all that He has done.
First the blade, then the ear, then the grain in the ear and then the harvest will come. In His Son Jesus this morning, beloved, the Lord wants to remind us that there really is a God in heaven, who is our Father. His good will will be done because it is His will and He is God. He invites you and me to share in His work - to confess His name, to tell the good news of what He has done and to serve our neighbour, but it remains His work. Stand all we want at the end of the row, we will not make that seed grow outside His time and purposes. And despite what many may think, perhaps even you and I at times, no one can stop its branches from spreading out into the world either.
And so beloved, in faith in our heavenly Father and His good and gracious will, let us commend our whole lives to Him, trusting in His mercy, so that we might sleep and rise, doing what He has given us to do, in the truth that it all depends on Him, and He cannot and will not fail us. Amen