A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE                                            “Hymn Improvisation”                                         Tom Baker

CONFESSION & FORGIVENESS

GATHERING SONG                           “This Little Light of Mine”                          red book # 677

GREETING                                                                                      

KYRIE                                                                                                                  red book # 157

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                                                                  red book # 167

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

EZEKIEL 17:22–24                                                    

PSALM 92:1–4, 12–15

2 CORINTHIANS 5:6–17                                       

MARK 4:26–34                                                                     

SERMON                                                                                                             Pastor Chris Halverson

Today, in Mark’s gospel, we read Jesus’ first description of the Kingdom of God—his first Parable about the Kingdom of God.

Parables are simple stories told to make complex points. Simple stories told to make complex points.

Parables express something that is abstract and out there in a concrete way right here.

And the great thing about parables is that, if we let them, they stay with us.

In fact, they demand that we stay and chew on them for a while, they demand to be re-read.

And, as we chew on them and re-read them, they begin to do the same to us, until the parable is chewing on our lives and we are being read by the parable.

In short, parables stay with us and change us.

 

Prayer

 

Consider the Parable of the scattered seed:

‘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.’

It seems pretty simple doesn’t it?

The Kingdom, through no effort on anyone’s part—in fact we don’t know how it works, grows. You can’t in fact stop it from growing—it is unstoppable. Our Calvinist Brother’s and Sisters might say these seeds shine forth as an example of Irresistible Grace.

The Kingdom of God is Irresistible.

 

For that matter, the Kingdom is hidden under the earth, but then appears, stock, head, then fully grown. It was hidden then revealed.

The Kingdom of God is being Revealed.

 

Yet, once this parable sits with us—perhaps we read it again. It demands that we interrogate it, that we think about it, that we ask questions of it, “What is this seed that dies?” Or perhaps

“Who is this seed that dies and produces much fruit?”

Maybe the parable will stay with you all the way to this upcoming 4th of July, and as you sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, you will make a connection between trampling grapes and bringing in a harvest.

From there you will realize that both images—the trampling of grapes and the harvesting of wheat—are images of judgment and the End.

We may ask, “Is the point of the harvest simply to produce more seed to be scattered in order to make still more seed to be scattered? Is the spreading of seed an end in itself.

Or is the end to produce grain to make bread?

And if it is to make bread, what is the bread of the Kingdom of God? What kind of Manna from Heaven is Jesus talking about and calling us to?”

 

 

Or consider the Parable of the Mustard seed:

“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.’

Initially it seems so simple, the smallest of seed becomes the largest of shrubs.

The Kingdom of God starts small and becomes large.

Yet, Jesus is talking about  shrubs, not trees—the kingdom isn’t a Cedar of Lebanon or a tall Sycamore like that one Zacchaeus staring down at Jesus from. It is just a common mustard shrub. A big sturdy bush. The Kingdom comes in a common shrub that grew out of a tiny seed.

But then we learn that this common shrub happens to be a type of shrub that grows like crazy and is uncontrollable—it can overwhelm a garden—it could almost be described as a weed if it wasn’t so big, and useful.

In the ancient world the mustard seed was lauded for its health benefits.

In other words, the Kingdom of God heals, but is uncontrollable.

Then, your mind might wander, and find that bird perched there—nestled in that shrub…

and you wonder what the heck it is doing there. In the Old Testament birds resting in trees describe the peace of God that passes all understanding—but just a few verses previous Jesus describes birds eating seeds as Satan taking away the word.

Are they good birds finding rest, or bad birds resting from harassing God’s people? It’s purposely unclear.

 

As I said Jesus’ parables chew on you once you start to chew on them.

The Kingdom of God is irresistible, and being revealed. The Kingdom starts small, but becomes large.

Its also involves dying, and harvest. Its also common, uncontrollable, healing, and a place to find rest, from, or maybe even for, enemies.

 

And to bring some of these pieces from Jesus’ parables forward in order to hear them anew, I offer three parables of my own.

 

Wycliffe Bible translators were attempting to translate the Gospels into a local African language and were learning the language by staying in a village.

Then a massive flood came along and all the translators were evacuated. In their haste they left behind ½ of the Gospel of Mark translated into the local language.

When the translators returned all the people in the village, possessing only half of the Gospel of Mark, had become Christians.

The Kingdom of God is like that.

 

A computer virus was built on a single computer, spread throughout the whole internet—electronically traversing the globe, and it dismantled a computer controlling a nuclear weapon.

No one knew where the virus originally came from.

The Kingdom of God is like that.

 

Dandelions took over a man’s yard. That man’s daughter went outside and picked one of the Dandelions—blew on it—and watched the beautiful seeds catch on the wind and dance in the air like tiny clouds.

The Kingdom of God is like that.

 

HYMN of the DAY                                 “For the Fruit of All Creation”                          red book # 679

APOSTLES CREED   

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE                                                                              

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM                                 “Kneel at the Cross”                                  see insert

GREAT THANKSGIVING

 

LORD’S PRAYER       

COMMUNION SONGS                      “Lamb of God”

     Also, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, red book # 471, red book # 595

Sending

SENDING SONG                “Praise to You, O God of Mercy”             red book # 208

BLESSING

SENDING ANTHEM                                        “Promised Land”                                      see insert

ANNOUNCEMENTS

DISMISSAL                                                  

POSTLUDE

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