Sunday Service – 6/9/2024

YouTube Link

Ezekiel 17:22-24 22 Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. 24 All the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken; I will accomplish it.

Mark 4:20-34 21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” 26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth 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 except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Lord, May We Have Ears to Hear

In Mark this morning, we have three parables from Jesus that focus on how the kingdom grows and our place in that growth.  

As he tells these parables Jesus again repeats, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”  So…let’s ask ourselves what does it mean to have ears to hear?  I don’t think Jesus is talking about our physical ability to hear.  Many of us are hard of hearing or wear hearing aids.  I often joke about the strange things I hear when I don’t quite get what someone says to me.  Once I was at a meeting with other pastors.  They were talking about how many wives various men in the Bible had.  Then someone said, well, how about Solomon and his porcupines.  Porcupines?  I don’t remember any porcupines in the Bible?  I asked him to repeat what he said.  It was Solomon and his concubines.  Concubines are in the Bible, not porcupines.  

This morning I have a hearing test to see if you listen well…

1. A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired. 
2. What’s the definition of a will? (It’s a dead giveaway). 

3. In democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes. 
4. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion. 
5. A lot of money is tainted. It taint yours and it taint mine. 
6. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
7. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye. 
8. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis. 
9. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeet. 

You won’t get the joke unless you listen well and take time to digest what you hear. I’ve often heard people complain about kids nowadays don’t listen.  I think it’s not that kids don’t listen; it’s rather they don’t listen well. In one ear, out the other. It is same with adults too! Too many things complicate and compete for our ears. 

A story is told of a country boy who went to visit a friend in New York City.  It was about noon and they were downtown by Times Square in Manhattan.  The streets were filled with people.  Cars were honking their horns, sirens were wailing and the sounds of the city were almost deafening.  The country boy said, “I hear a cricket.”  His friend said, “You have got to be kidding.  You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket with all this noise.”  The country boy listened again and said, “Yes I’m sure of it. I hear a cricket.”  The two boys listened very carefully for a moment and then the country boy walked across the street to a big cement planter where some bushes were growing. He looked into the bushes and sure enough there was a cricket there.  “That’s incredible,” said the city boy.  “You must have super-human ears.” “No.” said the country boy. “My ears are no different than yours.  It all depends on what you are listening for.  

 think Jesus is talking more about when we have the ability to hear but we don’t listen.  I remember when I was a young mom often being rather overwhelmed by the number of children I had when they would all try to talk to me at the same time, usually while I was also trying to cook dinner.  Someone was bound to complain, “Mom!  You’re not listening!”  I think this is what Jesus is getting at here.  We have the ability to hear but we don’t always listen.  There is a vast difference between hearing and listening.  Hearing can be quite passive.  The entire time we are awake we are hearing whether we want to or not.  When I lived in Waynesboro the manse was right on Main Street and the wall of the manse formed one side of an alley, the noise of traffic was just about continuous.  It was a constant annoyance when I first moved in, it woke me up at night.  Eventually though, it took a very loud engine to disturb me.  I had learned to block out the noise.  That’s a good thing for traffic noise but not something I want to do with God’s voice.  We all need to be careful not to block out God’s voice, not to let it fade into the background, drowned out by all the noise of our busy world.  

Jesus wants us to listen and understand. . He doesn’t want us simply to hear what He teaches us. He wants us to GET IT! He wants us to listen carefully and comprehend His Word. 

We need to all heed Jesus’ call to listen and listen carefully.  Are our ears attuned to the ways in which the Kingdom is moving?  We need to pray to understand God’s call on our lives.  God is calling each of us to kingdom work.  It may be as simple as visiting a sick neighbor or as all-encompassing as spending your life as a missionary in a foreign country.  We will not hear the call though if we are not actively listening.

So with Jesus’ instructions to listen in mind, let’s turn to the three parables in our reading this morning.  In the first one, the Parable of the Lamp, Jesus asks his disciples if a lamp is brought in to be put under a bushel basket or a bed and not on the lampstand. The answer to the question, ’Hide it under a bushel?, as any of the children in the Learning Center can tell you is a resounding ‘NO!’  We want the light to shine.

Jesus goes on to say, “For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” In other words, truth is not to be hidden. It is to be known and heard.

 Jesus teaches us that God’s truth shines everywhere.  Jesus is the true light of the world and he has come so all might be saved.  As the Nicene creed says, Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.”  Jesus Christ is the standard by which we judge all truth.  He has come to lift the veil on the mystery of redemption and nothing remains hidden.  As a bright light illuminates all corners of a room, so the Light of Christ reveals truth.  Jesus’ parables are meant to be heard understood just as a light is meant to be seen.  

Jesus gives us a warning.  We are to pay attention to what we hear. He says, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen! Then he goes on to say, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

Jesus is giving us insight into the ways of the kingdom “of God and he basically tells us to use it or lose it.  This is not the only place we hear this kind of warning from Jesus.  More will be given only to those who use what they already have.  We are to share our knowledge of the kingdom with others.  As we give away what God gives us, then and only then are we given more.

In the next two parables Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God on earth. As one theologian put it, “The kingdom is not about geography or some static place; it is about the dynamic reality of God’s presence and power within the creation and within the lives of God’s people. In its talk about the kingdom the gospel means to announce that in this Jesus and his ministry, God’s presence and rule have taken on a new dimension and power among us.”

The second parable this morning is known as the Parable of the Growing Seed. Jesus says, ‘the kingdom of God is as if’ and he goes on to compare the kingdom to seed in a farmer’s field. The days would pass and the seed would sprout and grow. The growth of the seed is not due to the farmer, the earth produces by itself. In this we learn that the growth of the Kingdom is mysterious.  The growth occurs without human cultivation.  The Kingdom of God surprises us.  It springs up, sometimes slowly, sometimes overnight.  Growth is the miraculous work of God and the harvest as an outcome is both gift and miracle.  

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed we learn that from a very small beginning can come very large results. I read that a gardener, prompted by curiosity, counted the seed pods on a medium-sized mustard plant. There were 85.  The average number of seeds in each pod was eight. Since two crops in a given year could be matured, the gardener figured that it was possible in the interim between February and mid-October to produce a yield of 462,000 seeds, all from one original plant.  If the seed of a mustard plant can produce that kind of result, IMAGINE what the Spiritual seed that God gives us can do!

The kingdom of God, the parable teaches, can begin so small and insignificant that it might be missed or overlooked.  Who would notice a single mustard seed on the ground? Once full grown, however, its true significance becomes known.  Remember our passage from Ezekiel?  This parable and the Ezekiel passage are both about hope in the Kingdom of God.  In each, we see great results from small beginnings.  In both we see the birds of the air coming, representing all the people who will come into the kingdom of God.  The prophet Zechariah said that we are not to despise the day of small beginnings  Zechariah 4:6 says “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.  It is God who grows the kingdom in the hearts of people.  It is the Spirit of God moving through our world that causes the kingdom to expand

What I think we can take from these parables this morning is that God’s kingdom WILL grow, there is nothing in heaven or earth that can stand against it.  Instead, we can concentrate on Jesus’ commission to spread the good news of the gospel far and wide.  We are the local Presbyterian body of Christ in Aston.  We need to act as that body, living according to scripture to the best of our ability, surrendering ourselves to God’s will and seeking to be a lamp on a lampstand.

Please pray with me:  Lord, grant we pray, that we may have listening ears; that we may hear you speaking and we may be willing to act when you tell us to act, willing to go where you tell us to go, willing to give what we are to give.  Lord, use us, we pray, to grow your kingdom.  We pray that you will use our church and us to be agents of growth for the kingdom.  That we will be a light on a hill, shining forth to our community the love of Jesus Christ.