I have been preaching lately on the “Kingdom.” You may recognize that in the New Testament, the kingdom is a kind of code word for the “rule and reign” of God. It is the heart of the “gospel” that Jesus brings. It is a new way of life, good news to all people everywhere, available here and now.
This Sunday we look at the Parable of the Growing Seed recorded in Mark 4. It, like so many of Jesus’ parables, flips things upside down—here matters big and small. It is often true that when one looks at the great challenges of our lives and world, you can wonder, “What can one person do? What difference will my small effort make?”
I read recently a little book entitled Everday Justice by Julie Clawson. In it, she takes the reader on a trip through everyday life, showing how everyday decisions have global impact. She talks about how we get our food (including two of my favorites, coffee and chocolate!) and clothing, as well as the surprising costs of consumer waste. How we eat, dress, drive and such can make a difference on our own health, not to mention the well-being of people around the world. The more sustainable our lifestyle, the more just our world will be. She argues that the way to love God and love others includes living just lives, every day, especially in the little things.
Last year our young people taught the church something in this regard. We installed compact fluorescent bulbs in 50 to 60 homes in our community. They encouraged all of us within the church to do the same, as they reached out to those who perhaps lacked the resources to do it themselves. In this way, not only was the church making a statement about our concern for these families, but also helping protect our environment as well. I am encouraged by the example of others as well who choose to make small changes that result in big differences. We receive quite a few packages here at the church—everything from books and literature to various supplies and repair parts. Joe, our regular delivery guy, makes more than a few stops here in a week’s time. UPS is a shipping giant. According to a NY Times article, a few years back, there are more than 95,000 big, brown trucks delivering packages every day. And this realization — that when you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each one will translate to huge savings overall — is what led UPS to limit the number of left-hand turns its drivers make. Sitting in an idle vehicle waiting to make a left-hand turn wastes gas. I’m not kidding! So they decided to carefully plan their delivery routes to eliminate as many left-hand turns as possible. The result was a cut of 26.5 million miles, 3 million gallons of gas, and a reduction of 31,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
These “kingdom parables” can be just as surprising. On the one hand, human effort, as small as it may be, can make a big difference. Just think of what might be accomplished if you and I would make even a few small steps in a positive direction, plant a few seeds so to speak.
But don’t misunderstand, the most significant differences are not made by us, as diligent as we may be. In fact, this parable is more about the seed than the one sowing the seed. As much as you or I may be on “top of it all,” what is happening “beneath it all” is often most important.
So many times in life we look at the ground around us and it seems so barren. We wonder if it’s too late for that child, that marriage, that friend, our own soul, this troubled world. But here Jesus says: “You can’t control what I will do. Neither can anyone or anything prevent its final purpose. So put your trust in me. Keep sowing the good seed, doing the little things that matter. But never forget—beneath it all—God is at work. So remain open to the seed I am planting in you, others and in this world.”