26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (Mark 4:26-34 (ESV)
The Kingdom of God, Jesus compares it to wheat sown in the ground, to mustard seeds that blossom into bushes within which the birds of the air can find home and refuge. But what is this kingdom that he speaks of? Often we think of political realities, places like the United Kingdom, Norway or Sweden places that still have kings, perhaps even if they don’t truly reign over their country anymore and let the people rule for themselves. But what is a kingdom without the reign, the rule of a king? And it is this that Jesus speaks about, and his rule is not that of an earthly king, but he rules through grace, forgiveness, love and mercy in those who believe his word. His reign is faith, his kingdom is grace, for he does not lord it over as the gentiles do, or come to be served, but comes to serve, to bathe us in forgiveness and wash our feet with grace, to adopt as children and parent us with love. It is this that is like a grain of wheat sown in the ground that grows up while one sleeps, a mustard seed that has potential to outgrow the garden.
It can be unpredictable, the word of God, this mustard seed. Farmers plant in the spring, and hope for good weather. It’s out of their control. Oh, there are somethings they can do. Perhaps make sure there is water when it is dry. They can spray for weeds and pests. But an ill-timed hail storm can wipe them out, and what do you do with drought? Well, as Christians we don’t need to worry about that so much, we have the word of God, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, an inexhaustible reservoir of water for the mustard plant growing in our souls, if we just find time to make use of it. It is in the word of God, in baptism and the Lord’s Supper that the Holy Spirit is at work planting, watering, pruning and harvesting, and yet though we can be sure he is there and at work, there is often much mystery.
It’s the constant worry of parents, will my children, will my child be a believer? But then they are believers, they have been baptized, they have been given the gift of faith. Will they remain believers is perhaps the more appropriate question. We plant the seed, we baptize them. We take them to church and Sunday school as often as we can. This is actually an important part of faith formation, here in the divine service gathered with other believers praying the same prayers, being visited by Christ together in his word and in Holy Communion, putting aside the petty squabbles that might be churning the gossip mills at any given moment but forgiving our neighbors at least so much that here in this sanctuary, where we all become one by eating from the same loaf that is Jesus Christ, the bread of life who has come down from heaven, here we forgive on another at least so much as to be able to kneel next to one another not only in the confession of sins, but in in the reception of forgiveness in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And perhaps it doesn’t look like our kids are getting much out of it, though they do enjoy that children’s sermon. But they learn more than you can ever imagine. They may not grasp the sermon, sometimes spoken in innuendo, and figures of speech, parables understood by those who are meant to understand, adults perhaps dealing with harsher realities of life. Yet the Holy Spirit is here also watering the souls of the tender little ones Jesus says believe in him, the little ones he would have suffered, and not forbidden, but be brought on to him and be blessed, and blessed they are. They learn as if by osmosis through the rhythm of the liturgy which has shaped the life of believers from infancy through to life eternal, generation after generation even since the days of Moses.
And no, it doesn’t guarantee that your children are going be perfect little angels avoiding the sins of associated with David, or Samson, Abraham or Solomon. Fact is, your children will more than likely be the spitting image of you yourself when the world looks on. And for as much as you repeat the mantra “do as I say and not as I do” and pray that they listen, they will often be about as helpless as you find yourself when you are doing what you do and not as you say. But then, well then you have raised them in the faith teaching them when they lie down with bed time prayers, teaching them along the way as they sit eating cheerios during the sermon, teaching them when they rise, perhaps nothing more than a Portals of Prayer devotion in the morning. And then when they find themselves in the pits of Sheol, or the local jail, facing the consequences of life in a sinful world amidst a sinful generation, well then they will find there an old friend, a beloved brother lifting upon them his benevolent face and giving them peace as he has given you peace. For it was them, these little one’s baptized into his grace, lifted up into his arms and folded to his breasts even before they could speak, in whom Christ himself has planted the mustard seed of faith to be a place of refuge for them, it was for them he died on the cross, broke his body and shed his blood that they would know the forgiveness of sins and the joy of salvation.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.