RCL Year B Proper 6
Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 92:1-4 and 11-14, II Corinthians 5:6-10 and 14-17,
Saint Mark 4:26-34

In the prophecy of Ezekiel, we heard that the Lord God “will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar” and…“will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar.”[1] Ezekiel uses the allegory of a sprig growing into a noble cedar to prophesy that the Lord will restore Israel under a messianic King from the house and lineage of David. Ezekiel makes this prophecy from exile in Babylon six centuries before Christ.

And that very messianic King in the Gospel today uses similar figures of vegetative growth to teach the disciples and us about the kingdom of God.

Jesus teaches through two tiny parables some remarkable things, some things that may startle us by taking from us the control we may think we have.

He tells us, in the first parable, of seeds that are planted and then harvested. No human effort is required between the planting and the harvesting. That, to me, is very striking. The seed grows, as we hear, the planter “does not know how.”[2] And also, in the second parable, the kingdom of God begins as the smallest of seeds and grows into “the greatest of all shrubs.”[3]

I’m bound to tell you that the certainty of the harvest from nearly invisible beginnings with very little human effort appeals to me very much. The kingdom of God resists our control. We cannot sell it, market it, duplicate it, preach it, represent it, redirect it, or otherwise do anything to make it grow. God does all these things. God’s work begins exactly where ours ends. We have been entrusted with tiny seeds to plant, and we plant them and harvest them as best we can. God does the rest. Control freaks and workaholics beware. Planters, real farmers, when they have finished irrigating, spraying, and fertilizing still wait in faith. They wait in the mystery of God’s time, and they wait in the unknown of God’s pleasure. The growth happens while they sleep and not as a result of their efforts.

Silently and imperceptibly at times, perhaps, the kingdom grows. What Jesus asks of us is to rely upon the promise of the kingdom just as we know we have to rely upon God when we plant a seed. Seeds grow in the dark ground even when we cannot see them. Seeds grow in us and in our world, yearning for meaning and purpose, even when we cannot see them.

[1] Ezekiel 17:22-23.

[2] Saint Mark 4:27.

[3] Saint Mark 4:32.