Scriptures: Mark 4:26-34
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Parables. Mental puzzles with metaphorical meanings for talking about life and death. Spiritual life and death that is. I can only imagine, though, that back in the days of Jesus and the Roman Empire, it could have been real life and death; after all, “the Jesus way” was not the state religion. Romans were everywhere, making sure everybody followed their rules. I can only imagine especially in Jerusalem, the once capital of an independent theocracy named Israel; I am pretty sure they especially kept a watch on – and a strong military presence in – Jerusalem.
Today, it is not as easy to identify the oppressing forces that keep us from growing ever more closer to God. It is not so easy to identify the internal workings that seek to elevate and substantiate our own egos instead of seeking inner transformation toward Christlikeness. While it is true we can probably identify highlights of our spiritual life; it is much harder to mark growth through the years of our lives; harder than marking the growth of seeds planted in the ground over the course of a year. We plant in spring. Shoots of green pop up some little time after the seed is sown. Then, it’s constant monitoring through the summer; weeding and watering as needed, staking out climbing nondeterminant crops such as peas and beans, then tomatoes and cucumbers. Yes, the garden has easier benchmarks to observe, easier steps to take until harvest time. What are the benchmarks of our spiritual lives? Or, perhaps we can only tell from our fruits.
“Author Brennan Manning has made the observation that in everyone’s spiritual journey there is that first moment when we believe, when we stand before a congregation, or privately before God, and profess our faith. But that is only the first step, says Manning, because in the spiritual life there is always a second step, when we come to trust God walks beside us through all the peaks and valleys of our lives… as Meister Eckhart suggests, when we are able to lean upon a God as near to us as our very breath, dwelling inside us, waiting to be discovered; … [then] the work of re-creation and transformation can begin.”
Transformation has been an emerging theme this past year during my Doctorate of Ministry studies. My first year of this journey has brought me through models of leadership and definitions of spiritual formation. In our final integrative paper we were asked to reflect deeply on where our own personal journeys in these areas were currently leading us. For me, a working definition of Leadership is:
Relationally transformative servanthood in Christ with the Holy Spirit for God’s intended healing and wholeness. Paired with that, of course, is how it weaves in and through our spiritual journeying. With thanks to Eugene Peterson and Charles Kannengieser, I have come to regard Spiritual formation is primarily what the Spirit does, forming the resurrection life of Christ in us, that we might reflect the radiance of Christian faith communally in daily life. For me, to live into these statements, personal transformation has to be at the heart of both.
I would also submit to you however, that personal transformation is at the heart of every Christian journey. Consider this: the metaphors Jesus uses when describing the Kingdom of God also imply and/or mirror the process by which we must be transformed in order to be members of it. In today’s parables, horticultural metaphors reveal how seeds of change are planted by God. The Holy Spirit germinates them and over time transformative maturity occurs until a harvest is ready. What does Jesus harvest within us? In this passage, we can connect a harvest to people of God who are ready to do and be instruments of God’s sustinence in the world. We can also find a place of rest – in God – such as the birds are able to do when the mustard seed has become a full grown shrub producing shade.
“In using these short, provocative stories, Jesus recognizes the importance of the imagination. In using parables Jesus is seeking a shift in our imaginations, a shift in the way we see ourselves, see God, and see others… In using parables, Jesus seeks to stimulate his audience’s imagination so that [we] might perceive the power and presence of God in a new and immediate way.”
Where are you in the story? Are you like a seed in the ground, germinating with new life ready to burst forth into shoots of green? Are you a young plant, becoming strong in the season of growth? Are you a mature harvest, waiting for Christ to come and bear you up as golden sheaves of wheat; sheaves of wheat that become bread for the world? What does a harvest of your life offer in the name of God?
“In these parables, Jesus invites seekers in every age and every place to consider joining in this kind of journey.”
Come, Lord Jesus, for we would be your people, joyfully becoming a harvest of your hands and feet – for the world. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
What does a harvest of your life offer in the name of God?
Household Prayer: Morning
The sunlight greets me in morning, reminding me that I begin this day in your presence. The air I breathe instructs me that I live by your constant love.
Lord, I acknowledge you are my God! I will seek your face in those I meet and make my aim to please and serve you alone, Jesus, my Lord. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
The numerous stars shine the wonder of God whose grace is beyond measure; whisper to me your abundant grace, which sustains me. As I lay down my head,
I recall Jesus saying that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. I imagine Jesus being with those who look for a place to lay their heads. O God, I ask for your mercy and pray for the day when we all can sleep in shalom, trusting in your mysterious work through Jesus Christ, the Savior for all. Amen.
 Mark Barger Elliott, “Homiletical Perspective, 2 Corinthians 5:6-17” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
 Nibs Stroupe, “Homiletical Perspective, Mark 4:26-34” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0