17 June 2012/Pentecost 3 – 1 Samuel 5:34-16:13*2 Corinthians 5:6-17*Mark 4 26-34
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
For We Walk By Faith
Thirteen days and counting! The obvious resonance for many of us may be with Samuel, the boy prophet when the Lord asks, "How long will you grieve over Saul?" How long, O Lord, how long indeed. How long does Jesus weep for Lazarus? Or, how long does Jesus weep over Jerusalem? How long does God weep over the way things appear to be going on this Earth he created and pronounced "good"? For a congregation in transition, still reeling from the tragic events of May 3rd, perhaps it is enough to know that Samuel, Jesus and God are with us as we grieve what someone once called "necessary losses." Like the "someone" who scatters the seed in today's parable, we do not know. It is not ours to know. What we need to know is that God is in this with us every step of the way.
I cannot help but think back to the day I arrived in New York City to move into the Seminary housing. It was a hot, muggy, August afternoon. We had to move everything out of the rented U Haul into a fifth floor apartment - and the elevator was out of service. Soon, however, a chain of fellow seminarians assembled to hand things from one to another to the fifth floor up the stairway. About half-way through, I was standing in the back of the truck looking for what to unload next, when a smiling face appeared in the street below, looked up at me, and in a soft, South Carolinian drawl said, "Yo po lidda lamb!" Yo po lidda lamb, I thought? It was my first delightful encounter with one of God's greatest gifts to mankind and the seminary, Lili Smith, who had just moved to NYC from Staunton, VA with her husband Ben. Just four little words that it took me a few moments to comprehend, and already I was feeling better.
Reading Paul's letters, or Mark's version of the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God, one gets the feeling that both Paul and the Jesus of Mark would give anything for someone to look at them with loving eyes and say, "Yo po lidda lamb!"
As we look at the world around us, as we struggle to understand where we are all headed come June 30th, it becomes increasingly difficult to agree with Professor Pangloss “that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”
And yet, against such a backdrop, Paul and Jesus both challenge us to see things as different from what they appear. Paul says we are to see no one from a human point of view. Jesus in his parables alludes to the present yet hidden and emerging nature of God’s kingdom. Without a categorical listing, suffice it to say that Paul and Jesus faced a dangerous, confusing and evil world much like the one we face today. As did the young church, as did the early disciples of Jesus.
Yet, despite all that can and does go wrong, Jesus talks about a sower and some seeds. Seeds that once sown grow, the sower knows not how. It is a mystery. Even while the sower is asleep, the seed produces a harvest. In a culture in which we find ourselves caught up in endless cycles of overwork, increased productivity, and increased profit as immutable necessary goals, Jesus in this simple tale invites us to recognize that God’s grace does not depend on human efforts.
Indeed, it seems to be an invitation to Sabbath Rest by which our lives might be lived in a more balanced rhythm of sleeping, rising, working and RESTING. In this way we glorify God by performing the productive work of the sower while recognizing that the growth of the seed ultimately depends on God. Is it possible that such recognition constitutes what Paul calls Walking By Faith?
Are we to believe that God is in control of growth and harvest despite the evidence of the way the world appears to be?
Jesus would be saying, Yes! Yes, says Jesus, the world is not chiefly about happiness but about Hope. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you would see things differently. If you stick around long enough, you will hear Paul conclude that the old has passed away, so that if you are in me as I am in you, there is a new creation. Everything has become new. You become new! We become new! The seed becomes a bush with branches to provide a home for all wayfarers like the birds. The bush will provide shade for those who are wilting in the sun.
Then the editorial board of Mark points out that Jesus was always talking this way. No straight lines, no clearly defined markers. Yet, stories that are infused with Hope. Stories which mean to remind us that God will not fail to fulfill the promise of salvation! It is already coming into being, says Jesus! Like the shrub slowly emerges from the seed, silently, quietly, but powerfully coming to be.
Our being here, called by God in Christ, as a worshipping community, a community of prayer, as people who continue to form families, raise children, welcome strangers, care for one another, makes us a sign that the falseness that this world is ultimately bounded by a more profound truth. We are the seed. We are becoming the shrub, the shelter and the shade from the falseness of this world
If only we will walk by faith. Faith as small as a mustard seed is all you need.
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed/
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed
You can take trees and hurl them in the sea/
You can take trees and hurl them in the sea
The lame will walk and the blind will see/
The lame will walk and the blind will see
Wars will cease with the end of greed/
Wars will cease with the end of greed
Loaves multiply so there’s enough to feed/
Loaves multiply so there’s enough to feed
As you sow you shall receive/
As you sow you shall receive
As you pray you will believe/
As you pray you will believe
Trust in the Lord, He’ll supply every need/
Trust in the Lord, He’ll supply every need
As you follow Christ you’ll begin to lead/
As you follow Christ you’ll begin to lead