Connections 06.13.2021: God’s Unexpected Kingdom

Mark 4:21-34

I grew up in church, which means I heard loads of Scripture-based catchphrases over the years: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” “Jesus died to save us from our sins.” “The path to heaven is narrow.” “Love never fails.” Maybe you can think of some. A phrase that relates to today’s lesson text is “Sometimes all you can do is plant the seed, and God will do the rest.” This saying usually applies to the Christian’s role in witnessing to a particularly “stubborn” nonbeliever. Got a friend who won’t come to church with you, no matter how many times you’ve invited them? Just plant the seed. Does your family member who is absorbed in dangerous behavior refuse to listen to your spiritual encouragement? Just plant the seed. Are you the only believer in your friend group? Just plant the seed, and God will do the rest.

For me, the saying eventually lost some of its meaning and became part of “Christianese,” the language that Christ followers sometimes use without even realizing how alienating it can be. When we look at its origin, though, we can reinvigorate its message.

Many of us think of Christian community as an intentional construct. That is, it happens because people make intentional, deliberate choices to lead it, plan for it, prepare for it, serve in it, support it, and participate as members of it. This is certainly how many churches and Christian groups do ministry.

But Mark 4:26-29 reminds us that God’s kingdom will propagate whether or not we have firm, established structures. Churches are helpful and necessary places. Bible study groups nurture and teach. Worship services convict and encourage. In the absence of those institutional practices, however, the seeds still scatter. When those of us who love God live faithful lives of service no matter who is around us, we are indeed scattering seed. When we listen to someone who is struggling, speak a positive word of encouragement, provide a meal or transportation, and generally walk through our days with a positive and hopeful attitude, we are showing people a little of what Jesus is like.

These seeds may seem small, but, as Jesus says in his parable, they can bear surprising, unexpected fruit. One day, for example, the person you loved and encouraged through job loss or illness may do the same for someone else. The child you fed may share food with someone who is hungry. The exhausted cashier who heard your kind words may get up tomorrow morning and try to face the day with greater courage.

We may not know how, but the harvest will come (vv. 27, 29)! God has promised it.

Discussion

• What are some Scripture-based “catchphrases” that still have meaning in your life?
• What do you think it means to “plant the seed” for Christ in someone’s life?
• Has someone planted a seed in your life that led to more fruitful faith? What has that been like?
• Have you planted a seed in someone’s life? Were you able to see the result? If so, did it surprise you?
• Why is it important to continue planting seeds for the kingdom of God whether or not we ever see the growth?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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