The Nature of The Kingdom of God

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Jesus Spoke In Parables

As Jesus went throughout the countryside, teaching the good news, the word of the Lord he spoke in parables.  Stories for a people who lived in an oral tradition, who would have been drawn in by stories that related to their lives and time.  Stories they could have heard to make allegorical conclusions about their faith and relationship God as they heard the metaphors that related to their agricultural lives.  Surely, they understood what they experienced daily, so Jesus met them where they were giving them the gospel in ways they might understand.  He spoke to the crowd in parables in ways they were able to hear it.  Thank God Jesus knows us well enough to meet us where we are, that we might digest our theology, in this instance on the Nature of the Kingdom of God in ways we may understand.  However, as a generation far removed from this time we better understand the parables through the eyes of the disciples as the received further instruction on the parables.  Because of their instruction, they were able to spread these concept to the world, to those who were far removed from an agricultural reality, to those in a metropolitan surrounding, to those who were in a future generation.  They were able to take the seeds of the good news that Jesus Christ taught them and spread them to the world.  Because when the good news of Jesus Christ is shared, and the seeds are planted in the hearts of human beings, then the world becomes a little more like God intended it, a little more like the Kingdom of God, a little more like the Beloved Community that we hope to see.  Because when people receive the good news of Jesus Christ then their ways reflect that of Christ and the world becomes more loving like Christ, more peaceful like Christ, more righteous like Christ, more caring like Christ, more willing to oppose oppressive structures like Christ, more willing to love so much that we might sacrifice ourselves for the well being of others like Christ, and more willing to walk in all the ways of Christ that bring new life, new hope, and everlasting love.

 II. The Parable We Know

Many have heard the parable of the Sower.  Some of us have heard it from our times in Sunday School, others have heard the preacher reference it on a Sunday morning service, and some might be unfamiliar with the story.  However, the parable of the sower is a familiar parable to some, a parable that Jesus told in the oral tradition, a story that related to an agricultural people who likely knew something about farming and the harvest of grains and fruits.  The Parable of the sower discusses how the sower planted the seed upon the ground.  After the seed it planted we are informed that all of the seed that is planted does not necessarily grow to bear fruit and be harvested.  Some of the seed was eaten by birds, some fell on rocky soil, some was scorched, some fell amongst thorns, and some fell on good soil. This is the familiar parable of the Sower that we know.  And for those of us that are familiar with that parable, we have learned that the seed was a metaphor for God’s word that is planted within the world, seed that is planted in the hearts of humanity.  As the gospel is shared, in some places it is stifled, in some places it is ignored, in some places it is choked out, but in some places, in the right hearts, in the hearts that are willing to do something with it, in the hearts that are willing to hold on to God’s righteousness, in the hearts that are actually willing to be transformed in Christ. it flourishes.  If this familiar parable has taught us anything, it is that when the Word of God falls on us, it has the ability to grow within us, but if we do not open up ourselves to the ways of God, the growth of the word of God can be stifled.   This is the parable of the Sower that we are more familiar with, this is the parable that we are more used to. 

This is the parable that we are familiar with that explains to us the Nature of the Kingdom of God.  It shows us that when we turn to God, and the word of God rests in our hearts we can take on the ways of Christ that build up the Kingdom of God, that build up Beloved Community. Beloved Community being the space that where the ways of Jesus reign within the world. Beloved Community that exists where an integrated community with people of all races and creeds, from all walks of life to live together in harmony as sisters, brothers, and siblings in peace. Beloved Community where love exist throughout the world.  Beloved Community in all forms of discrimination are torn down and peace permeates the earth.  Beloved Community where poverty and hunger are responded to with care and love, where love and trust triumph over fear and hatred, where peace and justice prevail over war and conflict.  Where God’s love and the ways of Christ can flourish within the world and claim a reign on our world.

As Christ suffered death on the cross that reconciled us back to God and resurrected on the third day granting each of us new life, Jesus ushered in a new era that allowed the ways of God to reign in the Kingdom of God as people are claimed and transformed by Christ and Christ alone.  Because of Christ we are liberated from the weight of sin and death that binds us, and the ways of God are able to spread throughout the earth in the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is both a present and future reality in that, we are in the place where we are now building a present reality, were we try to take actions that spread God’s love, peace, and justice.  And a future reality in which God’s ways fully reign in glory.  But the beginning of the Kingdom of God exists in the now, where we plant the seeds of the good news of Jesus Christ, that the ways of Christ might spread throughout the world.  

 III. The Unfamiliar Parable of the Sower

But as we enter into our scripture this morning, we are introduced to a new parable with the metaphor of a sower and a harvest.  A parable of a sower that are less familiar with.  It is a parable that is a continuation of Jesus’s teachings on the Kingdom of God. It that expands upon the concept of the sower and the nature of the Kingdom of God.  It gives us a deeper understanding what the Kingdom of God is like and what it means to take part in connecting with God to build the Kingdom of God on earth, that proclaims the reign of God.  This parable is one that is not often heard and one we can only find in the gospel of Mark. Scripture tells us that the sower scatters that seeds on the ground and does not know how the seed sprouts and grows, and the earth works to produce the fruits of the harvest.  It is not known each movement of the seed, but the seed is scattered and the earth works to nourish and cause the growth and bearing of the fruit of the seed that was planted. Without the influence of the sower, the seed receives the sunshine, the rain, and the vitamins of the soil.  And because of the earth doing what the earth does, the sower does not necessarily know what happens to birth the harvests of the field, but very rarely does the sower doubt that the harvest will come.  The sower surely trusts in the fruitfulness of the earth.  And just like the growth of the seed is certain, so is the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus has used the metaphor of the sower and the seed to show us a deeper allegorical meaning of the Nature of the Kingdom of God.  The parable shows us that we may not always understand what the Lord is doing, we may not always understand what is happening in the here and the now,  we may not always understand what God is up to, we may not know what will happen when we share the good news of Jesus Christ, when we plant the seeds of the ways of Jesus Christ, but God is moving and working toward the growth of the Kingdom of God. The Lord is doing marvelous things in the growth of the Kingdom and just as the sower does not understand all that is happening, we sometimes don’t always understand, and there will always be some things in the larger picture that we will never understand.  But the Kingdom of God is inevitably coming, it is inevitably growing and thriving.  God’s Kingdom is nourishing and redeeming, but there is nothing that we can do to block it or stifle it.  God is at work in the world creating the Kingdom of God daily and with or without our help it will flourish, with or without our help Beloved Community will exist in the Kingdom of God. 

 IV. Where Will We Stand?

But that leaves us with the question where do we want to be in the context of the story? Do we want to help contribute to the growth or do we want to be removed from it?  Do we want to look back on the context of time and be seen as those who worked in connection to God, or those who remained idly by?  God asks us to take part in the story, in that God does the work but we have the opportunity to sow the seed.  We have the opportunity to internalize the teachings of Christ and share it with the world, to take a step that helps in the process that builds the Kingdom of God.  We can internalize the teaching that love the outcast, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, and love on one another.  We internalize these things that make us like Christ and share it with the world.  When we share it with the world this is us sowing the seed.  And God takes the seed and does the work.  But from this we learn that we must do what God has called us to and sow the seed and then lean on God to do the work, because God is powerful than we could ever imagine.  But we also see that God is so powerful that the building of the Kingdom of God is inevitable, and we choose if we want to be part of that process or not.  So where will we stand?

The second parable of our scripture this morning shows us how grand the Kingdom of God is.  The mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet it produces a large bush that provides a comforting habitat for the birds. The small seed we sow that reflects the teachings of Jesus Christ that puts love in the hearts of those we meet, by sharing Christ’s love and seeing deep within the souls of those we encounter has the ability to grow and create the grandness of the Kingdom of God in the world that brings comfort and love to the world.  Something so large that it has the ability to encompass the world and proclaim the reign of the Kingdom of God.

So as we listen to the parables of Jesus, the stories that teach us about our theology, we learn a couple of things.  That God is working. God is moving and the power of the Holy Spirit is growing the Kingdom of God.  And the Kingdom of God is mighty and proclaims the greatness of God.  It brings about Beloved Community that establishes God’s love, peace, and justice in the world.  And God is so powerful that the growth of the Kingdom of God is inevitable.  But as we stand here today, God is asking, that even in the inevitability, where will we stand? Will we stand in the position that sows the seed of love, sow the seed of righteousness, sows the seed of peace, sows the seed of joy, sows the seed of liberation, sows the seed of compassion, sows a seed that shows the essence of Christ.  Because when we do that we can take part in the inevitability of building the kingdom of God.  But we just need to know that God can move with or without us.  So let us stand now in the essence of God and sow the seed that God places before us as we share the gift of the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.  Lord be with us now, and let us be faithful to partner with you. Amen.