“God’s Green Thumb”
Text: Mark -34 (Ezekiel -24; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
If it were up to me, all the children who came to our
If it were up to me, all the people we met at the Viva Vienna festival, and who we will meet this Tuesday at the Fourth of July festival, would come to our church.
If it were up to me, all the people we meet canvassing would come to our church. And all the visitors who visit our church would come back every week. And our church would grow and produce an abundant harvest!
If it were up to me.
But perhaps my goals there are too ambitious. So let’s make them a little smaller.
If it were up to me, you would all have a faith so strong it could never be shaken.
If it were up to me, all the folks who have fallen away would come back, and all who are experiencing trials and troubles would be made whole and healthy once again.
If it were up to me, I would always have the answers to your questions, and always know the right thing to say when you come to me for comfort or advice.
If it were up to me, you and our church wouldn’t have any problems – no doubts, no fears, no crises, no difficulties, no knock-the-wind-out-of-you surprises. Only joy and peace and all things pleasant and nice.
If it were up to me, wouldn’t our church be great?
Well actually, no. Because even though I may think such a church would be great, and you may think such a church would be great, and the world may think such a church would be great – the truth is, we don’t know what makes a church great. It is not up to me . . . or you. It is God’s Church, and only He can grow it. Only He knows how.
And the good news that we heard today is that He is. He is working in the world, He is working in the Church, He is working in your friends and family, and He is working in you. Even if you can’t see it. Even if you don’t know it. Even if it seems as if the very opposite of growth is happening. It is God’s Church, and God has a green thumb.
Which means that God knows when we need peace, and He also knows when we need struggle in order to grow. He grants growth and He prunes. He knows when to make the sun shine, when to make the rain fall, and yes, even when to apply the manure! He makes the seed of His Word grow in His time, not our time. For His time is the right time. We may want it to grow sooner, and faster, and stronger, and bigger. But we cannot do it. We know not how. But He whose seed it is, can. And His promise to you today is that “I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
And do we need that promise! For I’m afraid that we as Christians, and as the Church, have lost much of our confidence in the Lord and in His work these days. We think we know better. We think we can do it. Or worse, we think we have to do it, and have a certain degree of success, and convert a certain number of people. And then everything seems to be a crisis. We get impatient. We’re always worrying. How many run from one gimmick to the next, one slogan to the next, one program to the next. There are the continual barrages to extend the kingdom, grow the kingdom, further the kingdom. Be this, be that! Do this, do that! Go out and save some souls! Be on fire for the Lord! Kyle and I heard a lot of that last weekend at our District Convention.
But I wonder. Whose kingdom are we building? How long can you be on fire before you just burn up or burn out? And you know it. When you’re worried about a loved one, when you’re in the midst of trials and struggles, when you’ve been trying so hard for so long, we get consumed . . . and we forget the promise: “I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
Did you notice how good that sounded? And not just to you and me, but to all of God’s people, for that tendency to trust ourselves and our ways and our wisdom goes all the way back to the beginning. For all the way back to the beginning, we keep messing it up.
For think back – from Adam and
Eve, to Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph: did
God not do it? From
Now to say that is not an excuse for inaction or laziness, but an invitation to faith. To still go out canvassing, set up our booth at festivals, improve our web site, talk to our neighbors, visit all the people we can, pray for all the folks we can think of, have our Spanish Bible Study, make our CDs, sing at the Metro, talk to friends and neighbors, be there for each other, and more! God’s promise is not a reason to stop all those things, but to do them in faith. To not get discouraged if we don’t see the results, but to scatter the seed of God’s Word, and let Him grant the growth. And He will. It’s His Church, and God has a green thumb.
I guess the problem is that we’re colorblind! And that God’s green thumb doesn’t always look
so green to us. In fact, maybe sometimes
it looks downright brown and dead! In
us, in others, and in our Church. When
we’re going through struggles, when we see what’s happening to others, when we
see all the nonsense going on in the Church around the world today! . . .
But you know, that’s how it is with God’s green thumb – He kills in
order to make alive. We heard that from
the prophet Ezekiel: “I bring low the high tree, and make high
the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish.” And we see it on the cross, where the Son of
God was put to death and then planted in the ground. I dare say that things never looked so dry
and dead to the Apostles and for the
But from that tree of death,
from that seed planted in the ground, came life. Life from the dead. And though it may have looked like only a
tiny mustard seed in the course of world history at the time, in that dry Good
Friday tree made green on Easter Sunday was packed the death of all and the
life of the whole world, the entire forgiveness of every sin, the resurrection
of all the dead, and the reconciliation of the world to God! You might not have been able to see it at the
time, all may have looked dead and dry, but God was planting
And so it is still today, in
you and me and all wherein is planted the seed of God’s Word. For where God plants His Word, He plants His
cross. His death and resurrection. That He may bring low in order to raise up. That He may dry up in order to make
green. That He may kill in order to give
life. His life. Not ordinary life, but eternal life. That is why, as
And God is working, and growing His Church. His ways may seem as small as a mustard seed to us, but do not be deceived. The water of Holy Baptism, the word of Holy Absolution, and the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion are giving life and granting growth. For in all these things is not our power, but the power of the Gospel, the power of God. The power of the death and resurrection of Jesus, forgiving sins, raising the dead, and giving faith. Faith to know it’s not up to me. Faith to believe in God’s green thumb. Faith to rely confidently on Him and His ways, to build His Church, and to save me. For only He can do it.
I think that was one of the
great things about Martin Luther. How
great was he? Father of the
Reformation! Nah. Luther had a profound
sense of his own non-necessity. He once
remarked, “While I drink my little glass
And you too. There is much to do and much to worry about
in this world, but in the end, you cannot even save yourself, let alone
others. But there is One who can, and
who has! You have His forgiveness
and life. He has planted His Word in
your heart and made it grow. And He is
keeping you. You have His promise. And
though you may feel as small as a mustard seed in this world, and think that
all that you can do is just as small – remember that that mustard seed that you
have and that you scatter is one powerful seed!
It is the Word and power of God to forgive sin and raise the dead. It is the Word and power of His cross. It is the Word and power of His love. So scatter it recklessly, sow it with joy,
and at the end of the day, sit down and have your little glass of
In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.