“You Are the Seed”
October 2, 2022 - Cobleskill United Methodist Church - Pastor Anna Blinn Cole
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
The Parable of the Growing Seed
He also 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. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 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.’
Today is our last Sunday in a series we’ve been doing for the last four weeks called “Back to Basics: Putting the Christ Back in Christian.” A few people have told me lately that I seem to be preaching with a lot of passion. They are right. I limited this series to four weeks but I think I could preach some iteration of it every Sunday for the rest of my life. The themes of this series are the reasons why I became a pastor in the first place. Christianity is a religion in crisis. The Church, capital C Church, as an institution has become mired in pursuits of power and wealth. It’s seems the public persona of Christianity either being used to support violence and exclusivity, or it’s at the center of scandal and abuse. I’m up here preaching passionately because I’m feeling desperate. The Christianity I see taking arms in the culture wars looks absolutely zero percent like the teachings and life of Christ himself.
And so we’ve been talking about the man Jesus, the one sent by God to live among us…what defined his passion and ministry in order to clear the air about what kind of movement this really is. And this is what we’ve learned. The movement that Christ started was a movement of resistance. Jesus sprang into action because people were being oppressed. The Roman Empire occupied his homeland and the religious institutions of his day were sidling up to the powerful empire for their own gain. Jesus walked onto the scene and turned the tables.
Instead of prioritizing the privilege and power of some, Jesus welcomed everyone. He particularly sought out people who had been cast to the edges of society and religion. He brought them to his turned tables to eat; he spent time with them in order to better see their humanity; he gave them dignity and listened to what they had to say. In a world of built on hierarchy, Jesus flipped the script.
But that’s not all Jesus did. Jesus went to the leaders and called them out for their religious hypocrisy. He was bothered by the people who claimed to be righteous and religious and yet they were the very ones who had built a hierarchal society where some people were clean, and others were not. Jesus refused to participate in hollow religious practices that had no relevance to God’s true priorities. He stood up to the leaders of his day and had the audacity to say religion is useless if it’s not producing love. Love is the priority, all the rest is background noise.
Jesus could have stopped there and gone down in history as a revolutionary resistance leader. But that’s not all that Jesus was. Jesus was the child of God and he came with an agenda. Jesus wasn’t just welcoming the outcasts to his table because he thought it was a nice thing to do that might earn him some points with God. Jesus wasn’t just reinterpreting the laws of his religion tradition and deciding which were worth keeping and which weren’t just for the sake of rebellion. Jesus didn’t turn tables over in the temple because he couldn’t control his temper. Everything Jesus did was part of a bigger picture.
Jesus came to open our eyes to a brand-new way of understanding God. Like our opening hymn said…”Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light-years a-way, but here in this place the new light is shining, now is the Kingdom, now is the day.”
This is the third core message Jesus came to give. Jesus came to tell us with his words and his actions that the Kingdom of God was near. Not in a far-off place reserved for us after we die, but here in this place when we choose God’s priorities over our own. Jesus believed that even the smallest of actions when done in love were capable of starting a chain reaction of change. He believed that life on earth could be different and that difference could start with him. He believed this so fervently that he put it into the most well-known prayer he ever uttered. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
In the 2000 years since Christ lived, I think we’ve strayed from this central message. We’ve converted Christianity into a religion more concerned about what happens to people after they die. We’ve put almost all of our focus on the death of Jesus and how this absolves us of our guilt personally. I’m not saying this isn’t important, I’m just arguing for a Christianity that cares as much about the common good of all while we’re still living on earth as much it cares about the souls of some after they die.
Heaven is not as far away as we think. It’s as close as loving our neighbor. It’s as close as seeing and treating those at the edges like humans, not problems. Heaven is as close as treating migrants like people. Heaven is as close as helping those in distress after war and hurricanes and flooding. Heaven is close when we can see our enemies with compassion.
What if our religion was less about saving souls for some distant heaven after death, and more about working together, like Jesus, for a better world here on earth?
What if Jesus came to tell us we have the power to change things. That the Kingdom of God will always start small, with a simple act of kindness or a brave act of solidarity. And from there the movement grows, always keeping God’s priority of love at its center, it grows like a weed from a tiny seed into an unruly, wild bush big enough to give shade and shelter to everyone who seeks it.
The Kingdom of God is a like a mustard seed. Full of great potential but only just sprouting.
Jesus risked everything to give us this message. His great love pushed the limits of what was acceptable and conventional. His courage and bravery to stand up to the powers of injustice ultimately cost him his life. And yet, the last core message of our faith is that he did not die in vain. That death could not kill the movement he had begun. His great love could not be held in a tomb. And so he lives on. He lives in each of us who believe that the world can be a better place if it’s centered on God’s true priority of unconditional love.
God is not done with us yet. He lives on in you. You are the seed of God’s Kingdom. Christianity is a religion in its infancy.
Let us pray.