The Kingdom of God is Everywhere

Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

This is the first summer in 3 or 4 that I haven’t volunteered out at Loon Organic Farm just west of town. I would spend a Monday morning there from 8:30-12:30 and would, most of the time, weed. I would need careful instructions about what the weeds looked like and what the plant looked like so I would pick the right thing and allow the plant to continue to grow. It was back breaking work and I only did it once a week for a few months each summer. Our parable today doesn’t talk about weeding or even tending. It simply says, The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. The seeds are sown and then they grow and it’s a pretty great thing.  This parable goes on to talk about the harvest, which then makes me remember that I got to do that at the farm, too. We’d get to harvest the garlic or the carrots or the potatoes, or the strawberries. What a gift those days were. The aroma of the thing we were pulling out of the dirt just permeated your very being. It felt so satisfying. It felt so good.

The kingdom of God is like…says Jesus. Which means he’s trying to paint a picture for the people of what their lives would be like if God were the center of their hearts and lives. If God’s reality of love and peace and wholeness were our reality – it would look like a farmer planting seeds and the seeds growing and then when the grain was ripe the farmer would harvest it.  Ah. How satisfying. How simply simple, right?

Then, he continues with the second parable that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It’s the smallest of seeds and it grows into the greatest of all—wait for it — shrubs.

The greatest of all shrubs? Seriously? Now, you and I have maybe heard this before and so are used to the analogy. But the people listening to Jesus then probably laughed. It would be like Jesus saying to us today, “the kingdom of God is like the dandelion, for they grow everywhere and evade the lawnmower and they spread and they return season after season.” Or “the kingdom of God is like creeping Charlie – it will take over your yard and thrive without tending to at all.”  The mustard seed grew into this shrub that was just everywhere and people would have thought, “seriously? That’s the kingdom of God?

I mean, what we might want to hear or expect to hear in following Jesus is, “the kingdom of God is like the mighty redwood forest you would travel days to see and have your picture taken next to and send post cards to your friends of you trying to get your arms around it.” The kingdom of God should be described as looking majestic, notable, noble.

But instead, Jesus is saying, “the kingdom of God will grow and it will be everywhere. It will not be reserved for special sacred spaces and special sacred people. It will grow everywhere.”

I don’t know about you, but I want the kingdom of God to be special and I kind of want a part in making it special. I want it to be because of our efforts, our organization, our structure, our faithfulness.  But Jesus is saying it just is because that’s what God does and it’s how God works.

Which gives me permission to take a deep breath. It reminds me once again that God is God and I am not, that we are not.

And it also reminds me that sometimes, just sometimes, you get to be part of the harvest. You get to see something grow and ripen and be harvested. And the most amazing thing is that we are part of that harvest too. Sent out to plant new seeds, bringing new life with us – the life of Jesus with us – just by living our lives.

So this week, I got to see 3 young men grow in their faith. I watched them become part of a cabin group and part of a camp experience. I heard them pray prayers – out loud – in front of the whole camp. I heard them sing praise to God with 60 other middle schoolers. Some incredible growth – even a harvest of sorts. Some incredible new seeds being planted. Some great minds and great hearts at work in these young men who are being tended to by their families, by us, by their school and their friends, by any team they are part of. It’s really something to watch how the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives.

When have you seen new life poking through the ground when you thought the land was fallow, that nothing would grow there again?

When have you experienced that satisfaction of seeing something come to fruition, knowing that it’s not an ending point but a new beginning?  Parents of graduating seniors might know this feeling. Or watching your kids become parents. Taking a risk at work, starting a new relationship, trying something you’ve never tried, taking a new job, retiring from your life’s work.

The kingdom of God is everywhere.

This is the kingdom of God, my dear, dear friends.

You don’t need to understand how God works – God just does.

You don’t need to be able to define or explain how God works – God’s reality is here and will come.

You don’t need to work your fingers or your heart to the bone – the kingdom of God will be there like pesky dandilions, like creeping Charlie, like the mustard seed that grows into a mighty shrub and gives shade and home to those who need it.

May you find yourself in that shade today, dear ones.

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