by Lynn Stein
Last week I planted my garden with the help of my son, Kevin, who was here visiting from
Phoenix. Other than patio tomatoes, Kevin has never had a real garden, so he was eager to see
how it was done. I think the whole experience was anticlimactic to him because he thought it
was more complicated than it is. I am a minimalist when it comes to gardening. Dan tills the
soil for me, I make the rows, then I seed the ground, water it, and weed it when necessary.
Later I’ll squeeze the occasional potato bug. As far as knowing the pH of my soil or what additives
to put into it for nutrients that may be lacking, or how to compost, I’m clueless. However, despite
my amateurish skills and knowledge, Kevin sees me as somewhat legitimate in the garden arena,
because the seeds always germinate, and the harvest is plentiful. And delicious.
Unfortunately, I’m much better at planting seeds in my garden plot than I am at planting
seeds for God’s Kingdom sometimes. When my kids were little, I was not in a “Jesus” space;
I was into “New Age Woo-Woo” stuff. Therefore, my kids received no seeds from me regarding
the Kingdom or Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. I will forever regret that. Kevin trusts
science, not God. He’s a great kid—you’d love him—but he thinks Heaven and Never Never
Land are one and the same. My becoming a Christian in the last 15 years is a source of
bewilderment to him. I never try to persuade him to believe or preach to him—I can hardly
even say, “I have to go work on my sermon,” without being received with a blank expression.
Any mention of church, the Bible, or sermons is met with absolute silence and a tightening of
his jaw. In his defense, he is only trying to reconcile the mom he knew from childhood with
the mother who has become a Christian. While he will confess that Mom has changed for the
better, he will not acknowledge or credit the source of that change. My heart broke when I
hugged him goodbye, because I love him so much but have failed him so miserably.
My hope is that God will bring seeds to Kevin from others, who will jumpstart his now desolate
spiritual garden. In the meantime, I still have opportunity to plant seeds of the Good News about
God’s Kingdom in other gardens—that is, in other people. Let’s read Mark 4:26-32. Hear the
Word of the Lord.
Mark 4:26-32 NIV
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.
27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does
not know how.
28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the
head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall
we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.
32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big
branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
The seed in this parable is the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and the farmer symbolizes
all believers and their responsibility to spread this Good News.
When Jesus describes the man scattering seed, then going about his business as the seed
does its business, I could relate. It’s a partnership: I plant; God grows. While I never
underestimate the work that goes into maintaining a garden, I am strictly God’s steward
in this partnership. Water and sunshine and sprouting seeds are God’s bailiwick. I’m the
worker bee. Eventually the seeds will sprout, but I’ll have no hand in that little miracle.
Scientists can explain the physical properties that the seed goes through to germinate,
but they cannot explain the life force that created it or drives it. Soon, though, I’ll do
my part by watering and weeding and squashing bugs, because I want a good harvest.
God wants a good harvest for His Kingdom, too, but for that I need to plant a different
kind of seed—the seed of the Good News.
The point of The Parable of the Growing Seed is that seeding, feeding and weeding may
nurture the seed’s growth, but the real miracle is in the power of the seed. There a children’s
song, “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow” that captures the essence of this parable. One line
asks, “Do you or I or anyone know how oats, peas, beans and barley grow?” (If you’ve forgotten
that song, go on YouTube and listen to it so you can have that tune stuck in your head all day.)
Always full of surprises, Jesus uses a tiny mustard seed to symbolize the beginnings of a great
kingdom. People expected Him to come as a mighty warrior; instead He came as a baby, born
in a manger to a virgin. You’d have expected Him to choose disciples from the brightest and best,
but He chose fishermen and a tax collector. Why would he ever choose the smallest of seeds that
would grow into a big BUSH over a mighty oak or cedar? God often chooses unlikely candidates,
like Jacob the deceiver, Moses the murderer and stutterer, or David, the shepherd, who was so
insignificant that his father forgot about him when Samuel came looking for a king. What Jesus
is implying is that small things produce big things over time. Growing the Kingdom of God is a
process, slow and steady like the tortoise; but the result will be a huge harvest of souls.
The image of the birds nesting in the branches of the mustard bush was very comforting to me.
Birds are safe in their home in the branches, just as we are safe and protected in our home in the
Jesus chose parables to tell truths, but because their meanings are symbolic, they’re sometimes
hard to understand. However, Jesus explained them to the disciples because they had ears to hear.
They were interested, although they wouldn’t completely understand the parables’ meaning till afte
r the resurrection. Because of their trust in Jesus, the disciples were privy to Jesus’ explanations, and
later they were entrusted to spread the seed of the Good News.
As His disciples today, He also trusts US to spread the Good News to others. We spread it in a variety
of ways that include 1) our actions, 2) our words, and 3) our attitudes. Red flag: While we spread the
Word of God, are we accidentally spreading other kinds of seeds, too? In other words, are there any
weeds in the mix, like saying one thing while doing another?
I remember when we were kids, my brothers and I would be going somewhere with our parents,
who would both be puffing away on their cigarettes, filling the car with smoke. We’d be choking
and gagging in the back seat, and they’d say, “Don’t ever smoke! It’s not good for you!” Actually,
they were right: it did kill my mother. As Christians, we are often accused of hypocrisy when our
walk and our talk don’t jive.
People may not know exactly how Christians should behave—except that they’re not supposed to
sin—but they know we’re supposed to be different than non-followers. They assume that if you
are a believer, your life will reflect it. So, the assumption is if Christ hasn’t made a difference in
how you behave, then Christ doesn’t make a difference. To put it another way, “What you are
doing speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Christ followers are transformed people. Romans 12:2 says, “…let God transform you into a new
person by changing the way you think.” Jesus’ use of a seed as an image of producing new life is a
perfect description of our transformation when we accept the Good News of Christ’s salvation. Just
as the seed must die to itself to become a plant, so, too, must we die to our former selves to become
a new creation in Christ.
My son is having a tough time watching me transform. He doesn’t always know this new creature
I’m becoming. He looks at me like “Who are you and where is my mother?” He can see that I still
make a mean lemon meringue pie, but he’s wary of the person who reads her devotionals over coffee
in the morning. Sometimes, he still sees the worrier in me, but he flinches when the worrier goes to
prayer. People are watching us to check out how we behave in certain situations. As Dwight Moody
said, “Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.”
In addition to our actions, our words can be bearers of good or bad seed. If we profess to be Christians
and regularly use the Lord’s name in vain, for instance, bystanders might be a little confused about our
Christian authenticity. Gossiping, bragging, lying, and so on will get the same reaction. More importantly,
once our words are spoken, there’s no taking them back. It’s like taking a feather pillow, cutting it open,
shaking out the feathers in the wind, then trying to retrieve them. I saw a t-shirt that read: “You know that
little thing inside your head that keeps you from saying things you shouldn’t? Yeah, I don’t have one of those.”
People will doubt your Christian legitimacy—and deduct 50 points from your IQ—if the words that come
out of your mouth defile you. Words can be weed seeds, in other words.
Lastly, our attitudes can scatter good or bad seed. If we talk about the “joy of the Lord” in our lives and
look like we’re sucking lemons all the time, we’re weed planting again. If we expect others to forgive us,
but don’t forgive others, we have attitudes that belie Christian love. If we give in to the notion “Well that’s
just the way I am,” we are not manifesting the new creature we have supposedly become.
Preacher Denn Guptill says in one of his sermons, “We sow seeds of influence every day in our lives, seeds
that will produce something; and Jesus is telling us that if we profess to be Christ followers, then we will
be responsible for the harvest we produce. Actually, we will be responsible for the harvest our influence
produces whether we are Christ followers or not. Every one of us would love to hear somebody tell us:
‘Because of your life, I became a believer.’ What we DON’T want to hear is: ‘I rejected the claims of Christ
because I didn’t see a difference in your life.’”
As a contrast to my son Kevin’s story, I’d like to tell you about my grandson, Jaden, who is now 15. He
comes from a non-believing family, too. When he was 13, he went to a youth group for a few months
because his “girl friend” went there. While he was visiting me two summers ago, Jesus’ name came up
in a group converstion, and Jaden, said, “I know who Jesus is. He died for our sins.” We talked briefly
about it, but no more was said until this past February. Shame on me. I was staying with the kids while
my daughter and son-in-law went to Mexico, and I was busy writing the sermon I gave here in February.
One day Jaden asked, “When you’re done with your sermon, can I read it?” Jaw-dropper. He is the first
family member that has ever asked to do that. Then when I returned to Spokane in March, he asked me,
“So what’s this Easter stuff all about, Gremlynn?” So I told him—as much as he could understand. I am
grateful that a seed was planted in Jaden by his youth pastor; and I will nurture it now, because Jaden has
ears to hear.
Jesus came to transform lives. He expects his disciples to work together to grow the Kingdom.
James 1:22 says, “…be doers of the word, and not hearing only….” Some days I’d rather stay in my
jammies than work in my garden, or skip church just because I don’t feel like going. But complacency
and laziness are not options in God’s Kingdom.
As you know, Pastor Cherie assembled a group of people—all women as it turns out—to become the
Chasing the Lion team. We have met and prayed after church on many Sundays to gather ideas for
a larger-than-life-sized mission for JUMC. In the Lion Chaser’s Manifesto that Cherie distributed,
one line was particularly compelling. It says: “Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine
intervention.” The team has amassed many wonderful do-able ideas. Some of these ideas include a
soup kitchen; designing and constructing a parking lot where the house stood on Main St.; and even
building a tiny house for a veteran—that one being the closest to requiring divine intervention. As Cherie
said to me, “…sometimes we tend to think of Bible studies and classes as the primary way to grow in
discipleship, but all of those other kinds of projects/ministries (meaning the ideas we have collected so far)
do that as well. The Holy Spirit connects with people in a variety of ways based on the unique ways that
God made each of us.”
What we discovered in our discussions is a distinct lack of male perspective and input. Therefore,
I’m going to challenge every man in this audience to come up with ONE idea for a mission for our
church that will change lives. I’ll probably be stepping on some toes or be politically incorrect in
saying this, but we need some testosterone, guys. You’re being asked to step up to the plate and
take a swing. The church needs your voice, your expertise, your ideas. It needs doers of the word,
from both men and women. Action and discipleship go hand in hand.
God made us male and female for a reason, and sometimes we need to celebrate the differences.
If Dan did the laundry, his underwear would be technicolored. I remember birthdates; he lifts heavy stuff.
We have different gifts, different perspectives, and different preferences, which increases a whole realm
of possibilities. With male input in our Chasing the Lion mission, you can make a difference in the direction
our church takes. You can be seed planters and stewards for God’s Kingdom. Don’t underestimate your ideas
or influence. God doesn’t.
I invite you to personally tell or e-mail Pastor Cherie or anyone who is on the Chasing the Lion team what
kind of mission you think would be a good one for JUMC. It doesn’t obligate you to anything, no telemarketer
will call you, and there are no forms to fill out (because my husband already warned me that guys hate that).
Right now, we need your ideas. As the Lion Chaser’s Manifesto also says, “Quit holding out. Quit holding back.
Quit running away.” That goes for ALL of us.
If Jesus is your Savior, then you have the Kingdom of God within you. With that comes the responsibility of not
only planting seeds, but chasing lions, too. Who knows? Maybe the mission you envision will be the one that
brings my son to the foot of the cross. Bless you if you do.