3rd Sunday after Pentecost--Proper 6B
June 17, 2012
I encountered a piece of a poem from one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, this week, and I think it’s a nice compliment to this week’s gospel. “Around me trees stir in their leaves and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches. And they call out again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say, ‘and you, too, have come into the world to do this, to be filled with light, and to shine.’”
Jesus said, “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…But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come…It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 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.”
The Biblical scholar Bill Countryman writes of this passage: “Jesus told a story about a farmer. The man planted his fields and left them to time and the rains, while he went about his daily routine, day after day. The crop sprouted and grew on its own, shooting up, flowering, setting seed. Then the farmer started the harvest. Living a life of faith, hope, and love is like that. We make our contribution to it, but the ultimate power is that of God, which gives the growth. This power works in and on us, not because we are doing anything great or wonderful or decisive—we are merely tending to our daily lives—but because it is the power of God’s love. Yet we get to harvest the fruits.”[i]
I almost have to stop and catch my breath at the good news of the gospel this week. It is the gift of the knowledge from Jesus himself of the joyful inevitability of the kingdom of God! Who ever heard of any kind of garden like he talks about? Even I, who am horticulturally challenged and who kill just about everything I try to grow, know that there is more to it than that—weeding, watering, other stuff…But the farmer in Jesus’s parable does not have to do any work other than scattering the seed and then bringing in the harvest! It’s ridiculous and it’s amazing and it is so very freeing to us when we can realize that the Kingdom of God will reach its natural fulfillment, and nothing that we can do or not do will get in its way!
I’m struck by the connection in the face of these parables with the first step in AA: “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction that our lives had become unmanageable.” This admitting that we are powerless is also very important in the spiritual life, and it is one of the deepest gifts we are given in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ—because only in recognizing and understanding this powerlessness and its importance in our relationship to God, only in that way can we truly be free!
Life is already so hard! Why do we actively work to make it even harder? We spend so much of our time and our energy allowing ourselves to be upset, anxious, angry, and stressed about things over which we are powerless and that just don’t really matter in the face of the happy inevitability of God’s kingdom.
Today, may we remember that the Kingdom of God, the new creation Paul writes about, will come no matter what we do or do not accomplish. We are given the deep privilege to make our contribution to it, through the way that we live our lives, but ultimately, it is the love of God which brings all things to fruition. May we rest in that knowledge and accept the deep joy that is offered in that gift today as we come to God’s altar.
“Around me trees stir in their leaves and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches. And they call out again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say, ‘and you, too, have come into the world to do this, to be filled with light, and to shine.’”