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Mark 4:26-34

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

The Mystery of the Kingdom of God


I want to share my gardening story. I began gardening at first after my mother passed away. I was serving at a new planting church at that time since I graduated from a seminary. When my mother passed away suddenly with a heart attack, I felt I lost everything. My mother’s last wish for me was that I would go to the U.S.A. and continue to study and become an ordained pastor. However, I couldn’t do anything continually because I was full of the loss of grief. I stopped the ministry and came back to my hometown, where my mother lived alone. I began farming in the field where my mother has farmed because I missed my mother too much. I have been planting in remembrance of my mother. I cultivated the farm, scattered seeds of several vegetables on it. When the seeds sprouted and grew, as you may know, many wild weeds grew together. I would remove the weeds around the vegetables, but I did sometimes mistakenly remove vegetables’ sprouts. I couldn’t distinguish between vegetables and wild weeds because it was my first time farming. Meanwhile, I learned lots of wisdom of life, was consoled, and recovered strength from agriculture to go forward to the next steps of my life.

While I was living in campus housing in Chicago, IL, I had an opportunity to have a small gardening spot in the third year of my Ph. D. program. My gardening was enough to make my strength whenever I felt weak with the stress of the study, homesickness, missing my family, and so on. Also, gardening was enough to help me toward my goals in remembrance of my mother.

When I moved to Wisconsin, I felt like coming back to my hometown. Here is very similar to my hometown, such as fields and flowers in spring, rivers and lakes in summer, hills and maple trees in fall, and snow on the roads in winter. I love Wisconsin. I love my parsonage, which has gardening spots. I learned a new thing from gardening here, which I have to have fences for my vegetables to protect them from wild animals. Last year, when I planted seed plants without knowing that wild animals would take them away or eat them, I was deeply disappointed because I lost my first plants all by animals. And then, I planted seeds again with fences and enjoyed their growing. This year, with the wisdom I learned from last year, I planted seeds and made fences around them. I planted more this year than last year, including several more kinds of seeds, which I never produced. As I guess, the vegetables sprouted and are growing together with wild weeds. However, I couldn’t remove the weeds yet because I cannot distinguish between some veggies and weeds. I decide I will wait for their growth until I can identify them. I observe them every day, watering them. By night and by day, they grow. I know I will remember and distinguish them soon what they are. Finally, I will remove the weeds some days to avoid nutrition away from my vegetables, enjoy observing their growing, and get good veggies and fruits happily when the harvest comes.

I guess most of you have experienced gardening. Some of you like gardening as a happy hobby. Some of you do farming as your job. Perhaps, some of you have some stories about why you are gardening like me. No matter why you have been gardening or farming, I guess you might understand “the parable of the growing seed” in today’s scripture. Jesus used parables for the lesson of the kingdom of God because he wanted us to understand them easily. Mark 4:33-34 says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables.” Especially, Jesus used many parables to teach people about the kingdom of God. Ironically, Jesus was a parable himself for God and the kingdom of God. Jesus used to say, “I am the bread of Life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the way, the truth, and life.” “I am the Vine, and you are the branches.” Also, he said to Philip, who asked of him to show God [the Father], “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John14:9).

Parables somehow lead us to understand things easily, but on the other hand, get things difficult without explanation. We may get wisdom about the kingdom of God through the two parables. In the first parable, it seems to like simple. However, if you have experience gardening, it is easier to understand the meaning. 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. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” Pay attention to what Jesus says, “someone scatters seed on the ground, but he doesn’t know how to grow.” After he scattered seed, while he sleeps and rises, “the earth produces of itself, sprout, head, and then grain.”

One day, one of our members shared about how fast to grow her cones. She has two cone fields. Whenever she passes by, she is surprised by how they grow fast. She felt that every moment she observes, they grow more and more. “Even we have a saying,” she said, “you may hear the sound of how they grow fast if you stay there for a while.” Like this, even though we scattered seeds, we don’t know how they grow. The kingdom of God is the same. Since we have received the seed of the Gospel, as Jesus is our savior, we don’t know how to grow the seed. For example, you are here through someone’s reaching you out no matter who they are. When you carry the seed of the Gospel to someone, don’t worry how they are growing in faith. I learned that even though I scattered many seeds on the ground simultaneously, they sprout at different times and grow differently. However, I don’t know why and how. That is the mystery of life, as if we are growing in faith differently. We don’t know which one is growing better than the other and which one will have more fruits until the harvest comes. Therefore, we do our part, expecting God works for us. Don’t judge whoever works harder or less for church ministry. Our parts are to scatter seeds for the plants, water them, give them nutrition as they need, and observe them until the harvest comes. We cannot remove weeds until they can be identified between veggies and weeds.  Like this, we keep going on reaching out to people with the seed of the Gospel, bring them resources like the means of grace, and pray for them.

The other parable gives us wisdom that insignificant things would be essential things. Mustard seed, the smallest seed among the seed, would be a giant tree and give birds shelter. So, for example, there might be the person who looks weak, and the least among us would be the strong and the first. Remember, Jesus, says, “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). Notice that Jesus was born in a manger, lived in a small town and grew in a poor family. Nobody thought of him as the Messiah at that time. But he is our Lord, who saved us. This is the mystery of the Kingdom of God.

Notice that the kingdom of God is within us already and growing among us. We may find evidence of the kingdom of God if we continue to reach out to people, contribute to others, and work for communities. If you do so, the kingdom of God would be growing through our churches and us. Here is a map to think of your status: imagine that you climb up to a hill. In the first stage, you may be excited to climb up to the mountaintop. And feel tired climbing on it alone, and find a companion who can help you. And then, later on, you may help others give them your hands. That’s the way we are growing in faith. What are you doing recently? Do you need someone’s hand, or are you ready to give your hand to others? The kingdom of God is already within us and among us. So, let us do our parts continually, and God will make things happen for us. Thanks be to God. Amen!