Sermon for Proper 6, Year B June 17, 2018

Ezekiel 17:22-24                   Psalm 92:1-4,11-14           2 Corinthians 5:6-10, [11-13],14-17          Mark 4:26-34

Planting seeds.  Jesus uses the metaphor of seeds in many of his parables – and with good reason.  The amount of yield a seed produces is dependent on a number of factors.  Just as we are each given gifts, what happens in our lives affect how well or poorly we develop and use our gifts.  Today, Jesus says:

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.

How many people do know how it is a seed sprouts and grows?

Farmers, gardeners, and scientist have an understanding and what happens, the stages of germination and growth – but I believe most everyone is in awe of it.  Jesus says:

The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle because the harvest has come.

We may know each stage of the growth process, but how it all comes into being remains a mystery for which most of us give God the credit and call it the miracle of creation.

We even speak of the conception and birth of children as a miracle. I believe that is an apt term since there are so many variables that come into play in the creation of a new life.   Today we celebrate Father’s Day.  As we do, it is important to note that for some the person responsible for their birth may not be the same father who nurtured their growth and development.  So, let us celebrate the men, who have modeled for us a sense of responsibility, those who have loved, and supported us in our lives.

I was reading an article this past week from The Living Church that talked about our Christian tradition as being Christianity itself.  It said, “Great stories, great lives, great writings, great buildings, and great music make the Church, provided the Church recalls that the great cannot exist without the small, not the small without the great.”  This was written with today’s parable of the mustard seed in mind.  The author goes on to say, “Every great story, every great life rest on the foundation of a thousand small things and [a] myriad [of] unknown persons, all of whom and all of which are great and small to God together.”

Every great life does rest on the foundation of a thousand small things and a number of known and unknown lives.  We are all impacted by, not only by the lives of our fathers, but the lives of countless others who shaped the lives of our fathers.  What knowledge I have of the lives of my grandfathers is limited, and my knowledge of their fathers and their fathers’ fathers is virtually none existent.   What I do not know, does not lessen the impact these men had on my father because they helped to make him who he was – and he helped me become the man I am today.

What I do know, however, includes successes and failures, joy and heartache.  Every life is full of strife and how we respond to it, initially, and then later, impacts who we are, who we become, and how we influence those who follow us.  Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned, have come from how my father and my grandfather (the one I do remember) responded to their own failures.

My mother found a note in my grandfather’s diary that said, “With the help of Jesus and sweet milk, I have stopped drinking.”  Now, I suspect many of you do not know what sweet milk is – it’s a very old term used to delineate milk from buttermilk.   My point, has nothing to do with milk.  My point is that my grandfather taught me the importance of getting help when we need it.  He may have been able to use his faith to tackle his drinking problem, many need more help than that.

My father grew up, as many of us did, with certain beliefs about race and human sexuality that he later came to believe were wrong.  What changed my father was experience.  He got to know people of color and people with different sexual orientations and he realized that all people are equal in the eyes of God.  He changed, and so doing, he taught me the importance of listening to others, of getting to know others, and of recognizing that we are all children of God.

My father become an advocate for civil rights and a trusted member of the clergy by people who lived on the margins of society.  He, like my grandfather, was a man of faith who taught me the value of faith.  Both taught me by example, more than by words.  Some of my father’s experiences I did not learn about until after his death.

I do believe this is one of the lessons of the parable of the mustard seed.  Just as our lives are built upon the lives of countless others – people we never knew, our Christian tradition has grown and become a nesting place for us because of the people who have come before us.  Small things, like my father being assigned an African American roommate at a meeting, make a tremendous difference which can affect the lives of others.  It is the influence of the past that has shaped our lives and brought us here today.

Small lessons in our own lives can change the course we are on, without us realizing it.  We, like the one who scatters the seeds and goes to bed, wake up one day and reap the benefits of that lesson.  We may not know how we came to be so blessed, but hopefully we know to give thanks to God for our harvest.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being.  Help us recognize your hand in all creation and to appreciate the small things in life.  We thank you for the gift of our fathers, the love they have shared with us and what they have taught us about living life.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.