“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 4:26-27)
There is something subversive to this ‘kingdom’ Jesus speaks about in these seed parables in chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel:
-The ‘kingdom’ is like a sower scattering seed extravagantly in all kinds of places (Mark 4:1-20). Why would one waste seed so extravagantly?
-The ‘kingdom’ is like a seed growing in the night without knowing how. Yet, we enjoy the harvest (Mark 4:26-29). It is the kind of thing that happens ‘by faith and not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7) How many other things are we the beneficiaries of through God’s good creation we don’t understand? Where do we exploit it to benefit unjustly? Where do we use it to exploit others?
-The ‘kingdom’ is like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a large shrub to protect the birds in the shade (Mark 4:30-32). Mustard scrubs are unruly and difficult to control. Birds would be unwelcome guests in garden by eating other seeds. What are the undesirables that God keeps reaching out to in this ‘kingdom’?
What other things do these stories reveal?
1.The ‘kingdom’ as seed. Seeds get buried in the soil in order to grow and bring about new life. There is symbolism here of death and resurrection. (N.T. Wright. Mark for Everyone. [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001], 49.) Just like Easter, there is an element of surprise in these stories as new life emerges out of old ones to create a new reality ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
2.The ‘kingdom’ as growth. Creation brings forth life. While we still don’t fully understand how, life tends to be resilient, grow where it can, and spring-up in unlikely places. Faith does that too. Wherever it takes root the ‘kingdom’ is present.
3.The ‘kingdom’ as agency. The sower sows. How does God act as a sower? How do we as Christ followers, sow seeds? How do we collaborate with what God is doing to bring and/or embody new life around us?
These seed parables suggest that the ‘kingdom’ does not come about through the ways we are used to things getting done: through power, wealth, or influence. Instead, the ‘kingdom’ arrives in ways that are inexplainable or less than obvious. The ‘kingdom’ (when you pay attention) enters our lives under the radar, mostly unnoticed, until it stealthily takes root and grows. Sometimes the surprise nature of the ‘kingdom’ flips our expectations and unroots the way we believe the world works. It may even change the way we operate!
Where is the ‘kingdom’ needed in our world today?
How might the ‘kingdom’ already be underway?
Who is the ‘kingdom’ trying to reach?
How might the ‘kingdom’ already there?
From Luther’s Small Catechism:
Your kingdom come.
What does this mean?
In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.
How does this come about?
Whenever our Heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that through the Holy Spirit’s grace we believe God’s holy word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.
(“Explanation to the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer,” Luther’s Small Catechism, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006], 1163.)
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