The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Paul records in
2nd Corinthians, ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone,
the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.’
Let us pray: O God our Father, we thank you that by faith in your son, we are in Christ, and are renewed each day by the work of your Holy Spirit. Open our hearts and minds to receive all that you have for us today. We pray in Jesus’ name.Amen.
Psalm 92 encourages us with the words, ‘It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High. For you make us glad by your deeds, O LORD; we sing for joy at the works of your hands.’
What great words to describe the joy of worshipping our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit with passion.
One Pastor, Steve Shepherd, relates a story he overheard: ‘A good Pastor, of the staid and orthodox type, had a passionate older woman in his congregation who was in the habit of saying, “Praise the Lord,” “Amen,” when anything particularly helpful was said.
This practice began to disturb the Pastor, and one New Year’s day he went to see her. “Betty,” he said, “I will make a bargain with you. You call out, ‘Praise the Lord’ just when I get to the best part of my sermon and it upsets my thoughts. Now if you will stop doing it all this year, I will give you a pair of nice warm woolen blankets.”
Betty was poor, and the offer of the blankets sounded good. So she did her best to earn them. Sunday after Sunday she kept quiet. But one day a pastor came to preach who was bubbling over with joy.
As he preached on the forgiveness of sin and all the blessings that follow, the vision of the blankets began to fade and fade, and the joys of salvation grew brighter and brighter. At last Betty could stand it no longer and jumping up she cried, “Blankets or no blankets, Hallelujah!” “Praise the Lord!” “Amen!”
(From a sermon by Steve Shepherd, A Trustworthy Saying, 11/13/2010)
I can imagine that the bubbly Pastor was preaching on the sentiments we have today from Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Church at Corinth. ‘Christ’s love compels us to live the faith we have in Christ, because we are convinced that Christ died for all, and was raised again.’
Just so we can see each other from a different regard than the world sees us. As we praise the Lord Jesus Christ, we can feel our hearts sing together, and see the light of Christ in each other’s eyes. And even more, we can look at the world all around us from a different regard. With hearts of compassion and understanding, rather than judgement and suspicion.
St Mark, the Evangelist, tells us that Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, but explained things to his disciples. I suspect that this would set the stage for the Apostles and Disciples to make plain the plan of God for all people. Exhibiting the same hearts of compassion and understanding.
Every time we approach the people in our share of the world with our attitudes, actions and words cultivated by the Holy Spirit, we become living parables of God’s love. It is my prayer that we nurture the seeds that the Holy Spirit sows in our spirits.
In the parable described by Mark, we find ” the kingdom of God” being described as a field scattered with seeds. “ All by itself the soil produces grain… As soon as the grain is ripe, the sower puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
But, in reality, ‘neither the sower or the earth actually produce growth “by itself”. The plant owes its growth to the power of God, who both creates and sustains the natural order.’ In the same way, spiritual growth is similarly the result of God’s Word and Spirit, not the speaker or hearer. But we do need to pay attention to what seeds we sow.
(Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible (p. 1663). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Some time ago “Reader’s Digest” shared the story about a company who mailed out some special advertising business post cards with a couple of mustard seeds glued to it. A caption was printed on the card that went something like this: “If you have faith in our product as small as this mustard seed, you are guaranteed to get excellent results and be totally satisfied.” — Signed, The Management.
A few months later one recipient of this promotional piece wrote back to the company and said, “You will be very interested to know that I planted the mustard seeds you sent on your advertising card and they have grown into a very healthy vine producing wonderful tomatoes!”
(From a sermon by Terry Blankenship, Kingdom Building God’s Way, 5/16/2011)
Sometimes we grow things we didn’t expect, because we plant that wrong seeds. We are being called to ‘Grow, and Go, and Administer’ for Christ Jesus, in the small things we do here in Port Macquarie. I suggest we can be reminded to scatter seeds of compassion and care among our neighbours that will be cultivated and nourished by God’s Holy Spirit. ‘Night and day, whether we sleep or get up, even when we cannot figure out how that happens. We can trust God to bring the harvest.’
But we can also be intentional, praising God and offering the blessings of God to those we meet. As the Lord spoke through Ezekiel: ‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it.”’ Ezekiel shared that God was speaking words of comfort to Israel that a return from captivity was imminent. But also a prophecy of the forthcoming incarnation of that tender shoot from the very top of the ceder that we recognize is Christ Jesus, Even so, we can also recognize that it is no accident we are here in our place and time, planted by God our Father.
As in the parable, God’s kingdom grows mysteriously of itself, at its own pace, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through Word and Sacrament. We may become frustrated at times with the cycles and seasons we see around us. But, like the precious farmers that fill our tables with fine food, we can be patient, trusting God’s blessings.
God’s kingdom grows according to His plan and timetable. And it is a great blessing that things ultimately depend on Him and not us, for only God our Father, is able to bring home a great harvest for life eternal, through the sacrifice of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ and through the leading of the Holy Spirit. So, let’s just praise the Lord, like Betty.
And let us pray: O God our Father, give us hearts that understand your love demonstrated in Christ Jesus, your Son. Hearts that accept your forgiveness, hearts that respond to your kindness and grace with fresh love for one another. Hearts that are renewed by the Holy Spirit to show kindness toward others. Life together filled with the joy of our salvation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
As we honour the wondrous creator of every heart, may the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, the Saviour of all.
Rev. David Thompson.