Mark 4. 26-34
If it is nothing else, faith is love! Being loved and loving!
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” I’d been looking for another, but stumbled across this quote, instead. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” It’s something Confucius said five hundred-or-so years before the cross. About the time Babylon was laying waste to Jerusalem. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” That’s what came to mind as I read through the parable in today’s gospel. It’s called “The Parable of Seed Growing Secretly.” And it’s one of those Mark-and-Mark-alone things I’d talked about, last Sunday. One of the pieces of Mark that neither Matthew nor Luke used when they wrote their gospels …
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. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.
Well, I read those words, sat back, and one thing came to mind … “Huh!” I figured the kingdom of god would be a whole lot more complicated than that! Sure, when we were little … when this believing stuff was just beginning … it was down-to-earth. Almost too much so! Embarrassingly so! Jesus loves me! Jesus loves the little children! God is great, God is good! Now I lay me down to sleep! There wasn’t much to it!
But we grew up. And we learned. Sunday school. Bible school. Summer camp. Retreats. Confirmation. Youth gatherings. Mission trips. So, by the time we were adults, well … it was all pretty complex! And most of us now need pastors to help us make sense of it all! To help us to keep it all straight! It’s like we were handed a tube of tinkerToys when we were baptized. And our mission – if we chose to accept – was to spend the rest of our life building a sculpture of what we believed! One spool, one rod, at a time! Different lengths! Different angles! Different colors!
It’s all gotten so complicated. Reading the bible. Saying prayers. Singing songs. Ministry projects. Small groups. Tithing. And of course, of late, inviting family and friends to church. Then, there are morals and ethics and principles. To learn and apply to our lives. Choices, decisions to make. Temptations to avoid. Sins to confess. Forgiving as we’ve been forgiven. There are commandments. Ten. Greatest. Rules, regulations. Traditions, habits, customs. End times. Second comings. Angels, demons. Body, soul. Heaven, hell. It’s no wonder we get so overwhelmed! No wonder we have no idea which end’s up! Life is far from simple. It’s a hot mess! With more loose ends than we know what to do with!
And then, like the eye of the hurricane, not the calm before but the calm in the midst … is this! “The Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly!” Or better still, “of the Seed Growing Simply!” You see, this is the kingdom of heaven! It’s life in all it’s simplicity! Life without the noise! Life without the clutter! No matter how much we insist on making it complex, it’s not! We’re loved; and we love! We’re loved; and we love! In that order! That’s all there is to it! To living! And to believing!
Contrary to popular opinion, here in America, we’re not in competition with each other. There aren’t winners and losers! There aren’t good and bad! There’s just us! It’s like we say in the Athanasian Creed … no one before and after! no one greater or less! It’s just us! All of us! Together! Of course, we’d like to think it’s all about privilege and power. But it’s not. It’s about being loved and loving! And you can’t get much simpler than that. Either you are or you’re not! You do or you don’t! And nothing else, nothing else matters! Not line items. Not budgets. Not programs. Not schedules. Not deadlines. Not quotas. Not offering or membership or attendance. It’s just the love! The loved and the loving!
And like the parable says, we don’t even have to understand how! Just that it does! “The kingdom of God is as if someone – anyone – would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, she/he doesn’t know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” Produces without encouragement. Produces without help. It – SIMPLY – happens! We can fertilize. We might water. But it always gets back to the seed! To the seed doing what only seeds can do! Simple! Uncomplicated! Love! Being loved; loving! Being loved; loving! Being loved; loving! That’s the heartbeat! The breath! And even though we insist on making it complicated … complicated and convoluted and confounded … living, believing, is simple! Living, believing, is really simple!
We can talk all we want about freewill and original sin. But bottom-line, it’s being love and it’s loving. We can debate baptism babies from now till the cows come home – however long that is. But bottom-line, all that matters is the love! Being love and loving! We can wrap ourselves in the bible. Dotting all the i’s. Crossing all the t’s. Parsing each verb and diagraming every sentence. We can sing and we can pray until we can’t do either. And it still gets down to one thing … grace … charity … love … God’s grace, charity, love and our echo, our reflection of it!
That’s all that matters! That’s all that’s important! And anything else … everything else … only distracts, only confuses. But when you get down to it, life, believing, is really, really simple. It isn’t a lot of work. It doesn’t take a lot of effort. It’s – simply – trusting the seed! It’s trusting the love! Believing isn’t – foremost and first – scattering the seed on the ground. It’s the sleeping and the rising! The sleeping and the rising! The sleeping and the rising! All in the sure and certain, that the seed will sprout … and grow … and that the earth will produce all by itself!
My friends, here in this place, among this people, there’s only one thing that matters … the love! It’s always the love! God’s! And ours! In that order! And when we have that, you know, we don’t need anything else! We don’t need anything more!