RCL Year B, Proper 6 (Track Two)
Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 92:1-4 and 11-14, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 and 14-17, Saint Mark 4:26-34

The relationship among today’s Lessons struck me this week with an unusual force. In the Epistle, Saint Paul says that since Christ died for all, all have died in him. And since all have died in him, no one is to be seen from a human point of view. Everyone is to be seen from God’s point of view. I am paraphrasing, of course, but I think that is close to one thing the Epistle says.

The difference between God’s point of view and the human point of view opens the First Lesson and the Gospel. And that difference puts us exactly where we should be. Both Ezekiel and Mark draw upon vegetative growth as a figure for God’s activity and God’s vision for the part of Creation we are privileged to know.

In Ezekiel, the Lord God speaks: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.”[1]The Lord God speaks, and all the vegetative growth is in his hands. All of his activity, and all of his vision of growth and development, is completely in his hands.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks. But he speaks differently. He speaks from the human point of view. He tells what a human being observes when God carries out his activity and vision for the kingdom. “The kingdom of God,” Jesus declares, “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.”[2] But we know how; we heard how in Ezekiel. The Lord God is in complete control of the vegetative growth. The Lord Godmakes sure that the growth occurs and that it occurs in the way that the Lord God wants it to occur.

As Jesus continues with his parables of vegetative growth, he makes clear what is the human point of view, the human role in the vegetative growth, in God’s activity and vision for Creation. First, we don’t really know how and why God goes about building the kingdom, so our part is to be a humble observer, to help with the harvest, and to acknowledge that God is at work the way God wants to be at work.

For the Type A personalities, for those who are determined to be helpful, for those who want to build a just society, for the determinedly woke, those gourmets of correctness, this reduced and secondary role can be quite a challenge. If we give glory to God and, consequently, take our creaturely part to heart, less can be more. Less can even be enough.

I find that when I read the Scriptures and offer the appointed Prayers Morning and Evening that this point is made over and over again. The Scriptures are, first of all, a revelation about God. They make God known to us, and in doing that, I find, they leave a little bit less room in which we can operate than perhaps we had thought was ours. Let God provide the growth. It is enough if we are around for the harvest and go in with our sickle, as Jesus says. It is enough if we so position ourselves so that we can participate in the harvest. It is enough if we let God be God. It is clearly an error, and it is the example par excellence of pride if we attempt to take the place of God.

I think the Psalmist is getting at just this in verse 12: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord * shall flourish in the courts of our God.”[3]

[1] Ezekiel 17:22.

[2] Saint Mark 4:26-27.

[3] Psalm 92:12.