Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6, Year B
June 17, 2018
Lessons: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17; Mark 4:26-34
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people recognize that we are new creations in Christ. We may not understand how that happens or even recognize the change, but we trust our Lord’s word and promises.
Key Scripture: So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17
How does faith grow? How does the Body of Christ, the church, flourish? How do God’s people participate in the creative work of the reign of God? How in the world does any of this even happen?
These are the questions running through my mind this week as I read Jesus’ parables of seeds, puzzle over God’s agricultural methods in the lesson from Ezekiel, and ponder Paul’s pronouncements of walking by faith and becoming a new creation. All well and good, Bible scribes and scholars, but just what does this mean to a 21st century disciple trying to make his or her countercultural way in a crazy world?
I suspect it means getting out of our heads and into the divine heart through God made visible in Jesus. Granted, that’s still not a recipe yielding logical answers and step-by-step instructions for discipleship, but it is the way to live into the concept of becoming/being a new creation—of shedding our shells so that the seed of faith can germinate in ways that are completely beyond our rational minds. I mean, who truly knows how Jesus cracks open a human heart so that a fragile shoot of faith can lean into the light of divine love, be watered in baptism, and fed on simple earthy elements of bread and wine? It’s not standard sowing and reaping methodology by any stretch of the imagination. This is not how God seems to roll.
Yet it happens. People of faith see with the eyes of the heart. Congregations flourish like mustard seeds, providing safe and non-judgmental space for all sorts of new creations to find shelter and a place to be formed into those new creations of which Paul speaks. Our lessons today aren’t about 10 easy strategies for church growth or five quick tips for successful evangelism. No, what we get today is a reminder that God plants, waters, grows, and causes to flourish in strange and wonderful and nonsensical ways.
All our mighty plans, initiatives, schemes, and even worthy dreams are for nothing if we are not open to and in relationship with the Creator of the cosmos. We don’t have to understand how it all works, we just have to be willing participants in the process and stewards of mystery, wonder, and awe. We do not cause the growth, but we can sure impede the process when we are at odds with God’s plan and will, or when we think we have the corner on the faith market.
Scripture is full of stories of how God uses improbable people in strange situations to accomplish the divine will, as well as plenty of stories about thwarted and redirected human notions of how God ought to do things. One would think we’d learn, right? Clearly we are people in process with thick heads, short memories, and a penchant for making messes. It’s a good thing we have a God who loves us, works with us, and refuses to give up on us!
Somehow, with and through, and often in spite of us, the seeds of faith are planted, and God gives the growth while we stand by with our mouths agape at divine abundance springing up all around. God is indeed good, and as the psalmist reminds us this week, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” Indeed, we do walk and grow by faith that is pure gift and grace.
Consider singing “Lord, let my heart be good soil” this week or other hymns in your repertoire that focus on God as divine gardener.
You’ve probably heard the expression “bloom where you’re planted.” Consider with your congregation what it means to have been planted as Christ’s Body in your context. How is God giving you growth? Are you doing anything to get in the way and prevent God’s horticultural happenings? What do you need to do be that new creation blooming so that all may see God’s glory through you?
What does it mean to be “new creation” in Christ? How do we walk by faith instead of by sight (and logic and reason)? Invite conversation and few wise elders to discuss this topic with your teens.
Faithful, faithful, child of God, how does your garden grow? The seeds are planted, but we don’t know—only that the good Lord makes it so! Talk with the children about how we take simple seeds (use some mustard seeds if possible), plant them in good soil, water and feed them, and watch for growth. We can’t force plants to grow—it’s in their very nature, their plant DNA. It’s the same thing with us. We can’t force one another to grow as disciples, as people of faith. God makes us grow, and the details are mysterious and mystical. The good news is that it DOES happen, and God is faithful. Finish with a simple prayer and give each child some seeds to plant at home if possible.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
There’s a saying that “the devil is in the details,” but good stewards know that for people of faith, God is in the details giving growth, bringing forth new life, and creating abundance at every turn. We just stay connected to our divine source of life and power, walking and growing by faith, and not by our own sight or reason. Thanks be to God!
Stewardship at Home
This week spend some time thinking about God’s way of gardening. It’s a mystery! We can’t think it through and make faith happen, but we can participate in it and walk by it. Importantly, we can pray into it, and invite God to make our hearts and our faith communities fertile soil for growth and ministry.
Cultivate a practice of prayer and openness to God’s growth in your own heart this week. How do you experience and see your faith being strengthened as you live into the mysteries of faith? How does being in community encourage the growth and “cross-pollinate” discipleship? What “faith-gardening” tips might you offer to new disciples?
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/06/growing-season/
Photos: IH, rex regum, and John Morgan, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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