Small Beginnings…

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Seed of healing; seed of forgiveness; seed of love; seed of life…arise anew in me.

 

3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B; Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ezekiel 17.22-24; Psalm 92.1-4; 12-15; 2 Cor. 5.6-10 [11-13] 14-17; Mark 4.26-34

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Gardens and fields full of crops never cease to amaze me, especially fields full of bluish, purple flowering flax that look like the sea as it blows in the wind.  I never cease to be amazed at all of the intricacies of growth and life that take place for seeds to grow and become what they were meant to become. 

I have planted many things in my yard since moving into my new home last September.  Last fall I strategically planted 75 flower bulbs of different varieties in front of my house.  I was so excited as I planted the bulbs.  I could hardly wait for this spring when they would push their way up through the soil and bring life and color to my front yard.  As I planted the bulbs, I read the front of the package the bulbs came in: “Guaranteed to grow!”  Ha! I thought.  No one can guarantee flowers or plants to grow.  And then being the person and pastor I am, I thought, only God can do that.  Even though I knew this, I couldn’t help but hope in the package’s claim of guaranteed flowers in my front yard.

In my back yard I have planted a massive garden as well with all kinds of vegetables.  I know some of you have already been out in the garden here on campus.  It is so neat to plant seeds, water them a bit, and miraculously see them grow.

We may plant seeds and tend to them as best we can, but we do not grow them into what they become.  In our Gospel reading today, we hear about the mystery of growth and of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how (Mark 4.25-27).”  The miracle of creation continues to be just that…a miracle and the work of God.

The Kingdom of God, too, is God’s work and miraculous things happen within it.  The Kingdom of God is not necessarily a place, but rather moments when God breaks down walls of fear and hate.  When we finally let God in, amazing things happen: You who have incredible guilt and shame are forgiven.  You who have wounds and sadness find healing.  You who have lost meaning in your life find purpose.  You who are stuck in cycles of violence or addiction become a new creation in Christ, and are given the chance to start over and try again at life…real life. 

Because God loves you, God finds ways of working in this world to help you sort out past hurts and current struggles in order that you might have hope and trust in God.  This is the Kingdom of God in which we are all invited into.

It is so clear in our reading of 2 Corinthians today who is invited into the Kingdom of God. “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all (5.14a).”  One has died for all.  Not you over here and those people over there.  All.  Including, you all.  And the reading goes on: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them (5.15).” 

Whenever I hear or read these verses in Scripture I almost get goose-bumps.  For me, this is the heart of the good news.  We are convinced that one has died for all.  I am convinced that Christ has died for you.  That’s it.  It’s done.  Plant these words in your heart!  Salvation is yours.  And because of this, we no longer live for ourselves, we live for Jesus who died and was raised for us.  When we live for Christ and for others we participate in the healing, forgiveness, love, and the life of God in what is called the Kingdom of God.

When we hear about the Kingdom of God in Scripture, it can be quite confusing.  What it all boils down to in its simplest form, is that the Kingdom of God is God working in the world through Jesus Christ and in your life and mine to make all things new.  In other words, your life in this world does not need to be hell on earth filled with violence, addiction, holding grudges, and manipulation.  Paul continues in 2 Corinthians: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new (5.17)!”  God is helping you grow and become who you are meant to be. 

This verse is about transformation.  New life and healing are possible, and most of the time they start as a tiny seeds planted deep within our soul.  Tiny seeds like a mustard seed.  All of you should have a mustard seed taped to your bulletin.  Did you know mustard seeds were that small?  This is what Jesus is talking about when he says that the Kingdom of God can start out as tiny as a mustard seed, nearly un-noticeable.   Yet it has the potential to grow into a great shrub with large branches, enough branches to house all kinds of birds. 

It is the same with healing, forgiveness, and realizing we really are loved by God.  We might hear this, but we push it away.  We may hear it again, and say: “Maybe for someone else, but not me.”  Then we hear it again, and the seed planted in us grows a little until maybe for the first time ever we understand what healing, forgiveness, and love really feel like. 

I was reminded this week of a story about my mother and me.  My mom grew up a Christian and attended a Lutheran church for worship every Sunday.  She told me one time that she grew up her whole life hearing that God loved her, but she never really felt it until one late night as she was holding me when I was a baby.  I was engaging in my regular routine as an infant, keeping her up all night.  She was exhausted as a new mother and about at the end of her rope.  Finally I stopped crying and fell asleep.  She said, “I looked at you, Renee, and felt overwhelming love for you.  Then, for the first time in my life I realized: This is how God feels about me!  This is how much God loves me!

The love felt in the Kingdom of God can break through and into our hearts in the most surprising ways, giving life to seeds that had been planted long ago.  It takes time; it takes work; it takes growth.  And sometimes, like the farmer, we wake up one day and we find that things have changed.  That seeds planted are taking root and growing.  That you have changed and are being made new.

Before concluding here I need to say a few things about all the bulbs and seeds I have planted in my yard.  My garden is doing so well and it is a great joy for me to walk through it and notice all the changes each day.  The first time my peas came up I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud with excitement.

My flower bulbs in the front yard have been a different story.  I waited all spring for the flowers to come up.  They never did.  I know the bulbs are there under the earth; they just haven’t come up yet.  Perhaps they will come up next year, or maybe they never will.  Sometimes things we plant take more time to grow or they simply don’t.  Disappointment is part of the cycle of life too. 

I took the time to grieve and mourn over my flowers not coming up this spring.  I am still hopeful some might come up in time, but I have gotten new excitement in thinking about what else I could plant there that might grow better.  I could give up on the front yard in my disappointment, but I am not ready to yet.  I will keep planting things hoping they will take root and grow.

I think God works on us in a similar way.  If a seed of healing, forgiveness or love is planted in us and doesn’t grow to where we actually feel it, God plants another seed.  God does not give up on us.

There is a song I have really come to love these past few years.  It is called, “Seed of Life,” and is written by Hans Peterson and Maia Twedt.  The Refrain of the song, of which I experience as a prayer of longing for life and newness is: “Seed of Life arise anew.”  The lyrics of the verses speak of the wonder of creation and the mystery of growth:  “Darkness covers and quiet hovers; we wait in wonder.  Water flowing and roots growing you nourish us.  Oh, breaking soil you push and toil with strength unknown.  Ground of promise to sky around us you beautify.  Seed of Life arise anew.” 

Nearly all things start out with small beginnings.  Perhaps our prayer every morning should be:

Seed of healing; seed of forgiveness; seed of love; seed of life…arise anew in me.