June 14, 2015 Text: Mark 4:26-29
Dear Friends in Christ,
Dr. Fred Craddock was a professor of New Testament and Homiletics at Emory University in Atlanta. He tells this story about his father.
Dr. Craddock’s father didn’t go to church and was extremely critical of the church. Every now and then a minister would come to their home and talk to the father about the church. Mr. Craddock would always say, “I know what you fellows down there at the church want. You want another name and another pledge. Right? Isn’t that the business you’re in? Another name and another pledge.”
This always embarrassed Dr. Craddock’s mother. She would withdraw to the kitchen and cry. Sometimes another person would come with the minister. But the father always held his ground. “You don’t care about me! You want another name and another pledge. That’s how the churches operate. You don’t care about me.”
He said that countless times. However, there came a time when he didn’t say it. The last time Dr. Fred Craddock saw his father was in a Veteran’s hospital. He was down to 74 pounds. They had taken out his throat and he was badly burned by radiation therapy. The story goes on to read . . .
“Around the room flowers were everywhere – on the table, in the windows and even on the floor. There were potted plants, cut flowers, and every sort of arrangement. They even had flowers on the table that you swing out over your bed on which you put food. That was just as well since he couldn’t eat anyway. Little cards were sprinkled in all the flowers and every one of them read something like this: Men’s Bible class, Women’s Fellowship, Children’s Division, Youth Fellowship. Every organization you could imagine in the church had sent flowers along with stacks of cards from persons in the church.
“Craddock’s father saw him looking at the cards. Unable to speak, he picked up a pencil and wrote on the side of a Kleenex box a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.’
“Fred Craddock read it and asked his father: ‘Dad, what is your story?’ The speechless old man took the Kleenex box back and wrote a confession: ‘I was wrong! I was wrong!’”
We’re looking at the Parable of the Growing Seed. We’re looking at the direction the Christ gives His people in a dying world. We’re looking at how . . .
“THE WORD PRODUCES BY ITSELF”
I know that sermons talking about everybody being a witness to Christ are not the most popular. Maybe it’s that uncertain fear that unbelieving family and friends will disown us. Well, maybe they will. Or maybe it’s the excuse that we just can’t do it. And the question is “Why?” Or, maybe, some just figure – or, at least, hope – that someone else will pick up the slack. Not necessarily. If we don’t do it, who will?
After all, there are a lot of desperate people out there in every conceivable kind of pain. God doesn’t ask us to be their critics. Actually, Jesus said it best of all: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Jn. 3:17) And this: “…whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (Jn. 3:18) The world is already judged, whether it knows it or not. The world is already condemned by its sin.
And listen, God does not appoint us to be keepers of nit-picking issues. He asks us – His church – you and me – to scatter seed. That’s all. Scatter. The growing is strictly His business. To put the seed – the Word – out there, trusting that it will do what God wants it to do.
And so our text: “(Jesus) said: ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’”
The point of the parable is rather simple. The seed is the Word of God. We are to consider the power of the Word. The Word produces by itself. God does with the Word as He pleases – not as we envision. The writer of Hebrews says, “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…”
Peter writes, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet. 1:23) It’s the Word…period. As the parable says, “Produces by itself” without the absurd innovations of humans…the seed sprouts and grows, though (the man) knows not how.
And the “man” in the parable is equally simple to figure out. The man is just a man, in one sense. And in another sense the man is you and I. We are the ones who scatter the Gospel seeds – the glorious news of sin forgiven and the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ.
As we consider the parable and it’s meaning for us you can hear those familiar words in the background: “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
So how honest should we be with ourselves this morning? Maybe the seed some of us scatter is the seed of constant complaint and criticism. Or maybe the seed of gossip and slander. Or maybe the seed of discontent. I’ll tell you what, friend, no matter what you think or how you see it, you and I are scattering seed – of some sort.
Eugenia Price said, “If Christ lives in us, controlling our personalities, we will leave glorious marks on the lives we touch. Not because of our lovely characters, but because of his.”
Of all the stands we take – of the pleas we make – there is none more important and urgent than scattering the seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Good News of forgiveness of all sin. The Good News that God does love us and has given us the gift of eternal life. There are many Mr. Craddock’s in the world just waiting to hear this glorious news. And always remember: The Word Produces By Itself so scatter seed.