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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

The Faith Of A Farmer

Third Sunday After Pentecost

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.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Mark 4:26-34

At this time last summer we were about in the middle of a very long political campaign. Commentators reminded us often last summer and fall that it was the longest such campaign in American history. I wish I could say that there will never be a longer one, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. With all the money made by advertisers and television news programs – and late-night so-called comedians – we’ll probably see even longer campaigns. Lord, have mercy!

Did you ever wonder how Jesus would have been received if He had been a candidate? This is no idle question. Remember that Jesus spoke again and again about the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God. Those are political terms. That’s why Jesus’ most devoted followers wanted to know what offices they would hold when He came to power – and that’s why adoring crowds threw coats and palm branches in Jesus’ path on the day we now call Palm Sunday, and hailed Jesus as their leader.

So what if Jesus had been besieged by newspaper and television reporters? And what if some television networks had invited Him to make His kingdom appeal? Some big-time interviewer might have thrown out the key question: “Tell us, sir, as briefly as you can, what do you expect your kingdom to be? Will you define your kingdom for us, so we know what to expect if you come into office?” Actually, Jesus’ style would be made to order for such an interview. Listen: “The Kingdom of God is as if someone scatters seed on the ground. He then sleeps and rises again, night and day. The seed sprouts and grows – the farmer himself doesn’t really know how it happens! In time, the earth produces a stalk, then a head, then the full grain. When the grain is ripe, without delay he goes out with his sickle, because it’s harvest time.”

Very likely the television reporter would be a bit puzzled by this answer, so he presses, “Could you expand on that just a bit, sir?”

“Gladly. My Kingdom is like a mustard seed. When you sow it, it’s so small that it slips through your fingers. But when it grows up, it’s the biggest of shrubs – with branches so big that birds can make nests in its shade.”

Now let me interrupt this television interview long enough to note that if you timed Jesus’ answers to these two questions, you discovered that the first answer lasted about 25 seconds, and the second was even shorter – about 15 seconds. You see, Jesus would have done very well in our sound-bite generation. And if the reporter had come up with just one more question: “What kind of people are you looking for, to further your campaign?” No doubt Jesus would have come up with another brief answer. He might have answered, “I’m looking for people who have the faith of a farmer.” What Jesus said was so simple – and yet so complex and so challenging. And, if I may say so, what Jesus said makes even more sense today than it did when He said it – because we’ve had nearly 20 centuries to see that what He said is true.

As you noted during the reading of the lesson for today and in my brief summary a few minutes ago, Jesus was giving two pictures of the Kingdom of God. And both were from the world of farming. Not agricultural science, or agricultural economics, as taught at Clemson and Michigan State, but simply from farming. In our day, farming has become a very sophisticated business, with high-tech machinery and university economics. But, after all is said and done, it’s really quite simple: you plant the seed and wait to see what will happen to it.

Jesus said that the seed will “sprout and grow,” and then He said that the farmer “does not know how!” In our day, we can give quite lengthy explanations about soil conditions, plant nurture, insect protection and so forth, but in the end it boils down to this: you plant the seed and watch it grow.

And Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like that. We do what we’re supposed to do, and then we wait for the results. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but it works.

In seminary we study church history, which revolves around key events, and around personalities that are sometimes dramatic, towering figures. We call them the church fathers – people like Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine. But if I ask you why you’re here today, or how it is that you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will no doubt name someone I’ve never read about: a parent or grandparent, a Sunday School teacher, a friend or a neighbor. A farmer, if I may say so – someone with the faith to put seed in the ground – to tell you the Good News about Jesus – and trust it to the miracle of growth, under the supervision of the Holy Spirit.

Someone has to plant the seed. Someone has to watch over it. Someone has to bring in the harvest. I’ve used the word “someone” on purpose. Writing to the church he had established in Corinth, Paul explained to them – using the language of a farmer – he had planted the seed, another had watered it, and God made it grow. Each of us – each someone – has a role to play in the Kingdom of God. Each of us – each of us – has to do our thing!

And we need to remember that the little things we do – the seeds we sow – have the potential to help bring in God’s Kingdom. Sometimes the seed is as obvious as speaking a word about our faith. Sometimes it’s a financial gift in response to a human need. And at still other times it’s something as ordinary as kindness to someone we work or live with, patience with a harried restaurant server, or graciousness in the maze of traffic. Or as simple as giving someone a church brochure or witness card. Our responsibility is to do what we can, where we are, with our time, money, abilities and talents, to bring God’s Kingdom to as many people as we can in as many ways as we can. We need to remind ourselves that, as followers of Christ, almost everything we do is potentially a factor in the coming of the Kingdom. It’s our business, as Jesus made it clear, to sow seed, and watch it grow, and maybe water some that we didn’t even plant, and when it’s the right time, God will bring in the harvest.

And it’s especially important, to live our lives with the faith of a farmer, trusting that if we sow the seed, God will take care of the rest. It’s your business, and mine, to sow the seed, and leave the rest to God. May He give us the faith to obey Him.


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