The Big Tree In The Small Seed
May 23, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 4:26-34, Acts 2:1-11
Celebrating The Feast Of Pentecost (The Coming Of The Holy Spirit)
1. Today is the Feast of Pentecost. This day is, so to speak, "the birthday of the church." The circumstances as to how the church was born and how the history of proclamation in the church got its start was read in today's worship service. It is the event recorded in Acts chapter two. I will read it once more. "When the day of the Pentecost Festival came and the group [of people] had assembled as one, all of a sudden, a sound was heard from heaven like that of a fierce wind blowing in, and it echoed in the house where they were sitting. And, tongues like flames appeared split, and rested on each person. Whereupon, the group was filled with the Holy Spirit, and as 'the spirit' caused them to speak, they began to speak in the words of other countries," (Acts 2:1-4).
2. As seen by today's readers, something strange appears to be written in the text. But, the church has been communicating this profound mystery down to this day and with the utmost care and devotion, saying, the history of the church got its start this way. Many churches through out the world have been reading this text each year. They do that so they don't forget something important. What is it? -- It is that humankind did not give birth to the church. The text ended up saying, "All of a sudden, a sound was heard from heaven like that of a fierce wind blowing in, and it echoed in the house where they were sitting." It was actually "all of a sudden." It did not come to pass because human beings had planned it and had made meticulous preparations. It was truly an event of which one could only say that it came here from beyond. Even the sounds were not the sounds of the wind in this world, but were the sounds of which one could only say they were blown in from heaven. And nor could "the tongues like flames," which [the group of people] had seen, be either flames or tongues [as known] within [normal] human experience.
3. The church did not organize itself by assembling the disciples and by some characters with herculean leadership skills coming on the scene. Nor can it be said that the disciples had organized the church on their own by uniting under a single ideology. Nor was the church born as a result of their having settled as one against a common enemy or a common challenge. The church has been remembering and re-affirming this matter each year. If it were an assembly in which human beings had assembled out of their own will, then we could only hope for something that comes from humankind. However, the church is not that. That goes for Shoei Church as well. Even [our] church is an entity based in the history of the church, which had begun through this event from heaven. Therefore, we who are assembled in this place do not seek for what is of humankind, but for what is of God. We do not seek what is of this world but what is of heaven. We live together hoping not in humankind but in God. We turn the focus of our attention not on human governments but on the rule of God. We live turning our attention on God's deeds of salvation.
The Parable Of "The Growing Seed"
4. And to such as we are is given today a message from the gospel, the two parables that Jesus told. The first is the parable of "The Growing Seed." The second is the parable of "The Mustard Seed." Either parable will speak great hope to us.
5. For starters, I will read to you again from verses twenty-six to twenty-nine. "Again, Jesus said, 'The kingdom of God is like the following. After a man sows seed on the earth, day and night, while he lies down and gets up, the seeds sprout and grow, but the man does not know how it happens. The earth causes it to bear fruit naturally, first the stalk, then the head, and then the head yields abundant fruit. When the fruit matures, then without delay, he brings in the sickle. For, the time of harvest has come.'," (verses twenty-six through twenty-nine).
6. God sent Christ into this world, and he gave to the world "the seed" called the gospel of Christ. And this seed of the gospel of Christ was sown in our lives through the church. God has sown in us the seed of the kingdom of God. God's deeds of salvation have already begun. We could define the day to day faith life which has been given to us that way.
7. Be that as it may, as seen from human eyes, it may not look like something important has begun. Even when I say I have believed in Christ, it may seem like nothing has changed. It may be that way for some. Generally speaking a seed looks a whole lot like a grain of sand. It is pretty hard in some cases to tell the difference between the situations of when sown or not sown. Similarly it may look like there is no big difference when the gospel of Christ has been sown or not sown. However, seed is different from a grain of sand. There is life in it. Since it has life, it will grow. The seed of the kingdom of God will grow. God's deeds of salvation will make progress.
8. The growth of a sown seed, Jesus said, is done "day and night, while he lies down and gets up." It's true. The part about the growth of the seed is saying that. While a human being does not know, in a way that goes beyond human comprehension, the growth makes progress.
9. It would be weird if a farmer dug up each seed to determine each day if it germinated or how much it grew. After doing all he can, the farmer later, as he goes to bed and gets up, believes the bud will grow in a way somehow that goes beyond his comprehension, and he waits for it to appear. But, there are so many times that we aren't satisfied and just don't grasp how what God is doing is progressing. And so we start to murmur and get irritated that things aren't progressing to our satisfaction. That is just like a farmer digging the seed back up.
10. We ought to trust in God's active involvement more. God is progressing along his work of salvation for us. The seed of the kingdom of God is growing exactly [as it should]. [God] will make it to bear fruit regardless of what humankind does or does not do. It is just as Jesus put it, "The earth will cause it to bear fruit naturally."
11. Furthermore, Jesus said, "The head of the plant makes abundant fruit." Jesus says that it will ultimately turn out to be abundant fruit. What he states there about the harvest is significant. By calling it a harvest, [he means] the last judgment from God. The one who does the harvesting is God. So, what is more significant than the abundant fruit as seen from our eyes is the yielding forth of an abundant fruit as seen from God's eyes. The seed of the kingdom of God which is sown in us is heading into this abundant fruit, in a manner that exceeds human thinking. Since Jesus is speaking this way, shouldn't we live with [more] hope and with more trust in what God is doing?
The Parable Of "The Mustard Seed"
12. I will read to you next from verses thirty to thirty-two. "Furthermore, Jesus said, 'To what will I liken the kingdom of God? By what parable will I demonstrate it? It is like a mustard seed. When you sow it into the ground, it is the smallest seed on the earth, but when you sow it, it grows and becomes bigger than any of the plants, it sticks out branches so big that the birds of the air build nests in the shade of its leaves.'," (verses thirty and thirty-two).
13. Jesus is trying to draw our attention in this parable onto the contrast between the smallness of the seed and the great size of the grown tree. For that reason Jesus made reference to "the mustard seed" which at that time was known as the smallest seed. They say that when that seed grows up it will be three to four meters. In a sense, at the moment when it was sown, in that small seed a large tree for in the future was present. They were waiting for the time when the large tree in the future would appear from the small seed. The kingdom of God, Jesus said, is likened to that kind of seed. It is what God is doing. It is God's active involvement or deeds in salvation.
14. God's deeds may start out like a small thing like a mustard seed but which doesn't stop in the eyes of humankind. The presence of Jesus was like that to begin with. When we read the scriptures, you could get the impression that this person we know as Jesus of Nazareth had caused a great sensation in the world at that time, but actually talk of him was limited to the narrow world of Palestine. Jesus' being crucified was an event which even the ancient historians were mostly blind to and did not even record. What God does begins truly small. But, within the small seed a large tree of the future is sleeping.
15. The seed of the kingdom of God, which is sown within you all. The truth of Christ, in whom you have believed and received. It may seem now like a truly small small mustard seed. Yet nobody knows how great a tree will grow out of it, or how wide it will spread its branches. That small seed hides within an immeasurable potential. That great tree of the future is already within that small seed. God's deeds are what bring it into fruition.
16. In our every daily lives our eyes are on just the actions of people. We go about living as if what people bring to fruition is all there is. And so with such eyes we look at ourselves, we even look at our faith, and at times we think of our existence as boring, all the same whether we exist or don't; or we may end up thinking my being a Christian pretty much doesn't mean anything. For that reason then, we [need to] assemble every week. Consciously aware of placing ourselves in the church which began via heavenly deeds, and hoping in God, we need to live from here on with our eyes turned to God's deeds. Jesus told parables of the kingdom of God. It goes without saying, but the leading actor in those parables is God. We need to live by re-setting ourselves again and again into this whole line of thinking which takes God for the leading actor, The Big To Do About Everything.