Ordinary Time (Proper 6)
MARK 4:26–34/4:21–27 IV
Grow in the Kingdom of God
Ezekiel 17:22–24; Psalm 92:1–4, 12–15; 2 Corinthians 5:6–17; Doctrine and Covenants 163:3a–b
Invite People to Christ
Call to Worship
Play instruments along with this reading. This is also an opportunity to invite youth to participate, both through the reading and by “making music to God’s name.”
Leader: It is good to praise the Lord
All: And make music to your name, O Most High;
Leader: to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,
All: To the music of the lute and the melody of the harp.
Leader: For you make us glad by your deeds, O God;
All: We sing for joy at the works of your hands.
—Based on Psalm 92:1–4
“Bring Forth the Kingdom” CCS 387
If this song is unfamiliar, listen to the vocal recording on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings. Have the congregation look at the translation of the Spanish text and make the connection to today’s scripture which follows.
Mark 4:26–34/4:21–27 IV
“Bring Forth the Kingdom” (refrain only) CCS 387
Develop Disciples to Serve
Reread from today’s focus scripture the verses about the mustard seed—Mark 4:26–34/4:21–27 IV. Have several sizes of seeds to display and pass around.
Discuss how big each plant will grow compared to the size of the seed. Finally, show them the mustard seed and ask them what the scripture said about this kind of seed. Ask, “Would you expect such a tiny seed to grow into such a big shrub?”
Then ask everyone to think about what this parable is saying about the kingdom of God. Is it unexpected? How does it relate to faith that might seem small? What about small acts of kindness and compassion? If possible, send home packets of mustard seeds to help everyone remember the comparison of these seeds to the kingdom of God.
Pursue Peace on Earth
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
God of peace, you meet us in our smallness and assure us of what is possible. Remind us that your kingdom is also kin-dom—where we remember that we are all interconnected and we belong to each other. When violence and despair break our bonds to one another, may our small acts of peace be like the mustard seed—improbable miracles that bring peace to a world that yearns to be
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.
Hymn of Preparation
“What Is the World Like” CCS 385
OR “O for a World” CCS 379
Based on Mark 4:26–34/4:21–27 IV
Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
Disciples’ Generous Response
Play the video “Let the Spirit Breathe” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8gaXSJdNFs&feature=youtu.be).
Point to the fact that small acts of generosity in our everyday lives can be transformative and that
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Experience Congregations in Mission
“God’s Melody of Peace” CCS 319
OR “Now in This Moment” CCS 96
Doctrine and Covenants 163:3a–b
Faith is not a destination; it is a direction. Our hopes, dreams, and aspirations are in direct ratio to our willingness to put our feet down where they have yet to tread. .…We are tempted to return to the familiar when God’s journey calls us forward into the unknown, untested, and unfamiliar. We must not retreat to what used to be and resist what could be. Our faith journey calls us to make a positive difference, to somehow erase the dividing line between the sacred and the secular—to make the gospel a live option!
—Danny A. Belrose, Vulnerable to Grace, (Herald Publishing House, 2008, ISBN 9780830914166), 31.
Ordinary Time (Proper 6)
Exploring the Scripture
Twenty-first-century readers must enter the first-century world of Galilee to understand how shocking Jesus’ parables were. Jesus combined everyday things with images from the Hebrew Scriptures. He used them to challenge preconceived notions about God’s reign and the accepted system of power and authority.
Today’s passage includes two brief parables that use seeds as the key symbol for the growth of God’s kingdom. Mark 4:26–29 presents an image of the mysterious growth of God’s reign. The farmer’s effort is minimal: plant the seed and watch it grow. The kingdom belongs to God, and only God can bring it about, in God’s own time. When the harvest is ready, the farmer reaps it with a sickle. Joel 3:13 uses the same image to express the end times and judgment.
The second parable is the well-known saying about the mustard seed. But the meaning is not necessarily well-known today. The mustard seed was tiny and black, smaller than vegetable seeds. It grew into a wild, spreading bush larger than vegetable plants. It was tough, resilient, and hard to control. In Jesus’ day, farmers kept it separate from their vegetable gardens. When they found it growing wild in their fields, they pulled it out.
The parable speaks of “sowing” the mustard seed, that is, planting this wild, uncontrollable weed on purpose. His hearers would have laughed. Jesus was saying that God’s reign is not intended to be separate from everyday life. We must plant it in the middle of our tiny, cultivated world—and watch it take over! It grows wild and spreads everywhere, a weed that many reject or try to destroy.
Then Jesus adds an image from the Hebrew Scriptures that would have been familiar to his hearers. This tiny seed grows into a bush so large that “birds of the air nest in its shade.”
Ezekiel 31:1–18 describes Assyria as a great tree, proud and tall as the cedars of Lebanon, towering above all nations. The birds of the air (the nations of the world) found shelter in its branches and rested in its shade. God cut down Assyria and left it broken and dead. Similarly, Daniel 4:10–17 describes Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as a proud, invincible tree. All the nations deferred to him. God cut him down, chopped off his branches, stripped his foliage, and scattered his fruit.
The contrast is clear. The reign of God is not a proud, majestic tree that rivals both the power of God and other nations. It’s a strong, resilient bush that grows wild and keeps spreading despite efforts to pull it out. Its branches are large and strong, able to host all the nations (the “birds”) of the world that will come and be part of it. But it’s humble.
For those who did not understand the humbleness of God’s reign, its inclusive nature, and its secret growth, such parables were confusing and strange. But Jesus explained his images only to his closest followers in private. Those who were loyal and committed to Jesus were given inside knowledge about the nature of the coming reign of God. The subversive nature of his teaching was hidden from those who would destroy him and uproot the beginnings of the kingdom.
- The kingdom of God belongs to God. God alone manages the growth and the harvest.
- The kingdom of God is not separate from the world. It is planted amid it.
- The kingdom of God begins in small ways, but its growth cannot be contained or controlled. It’s uncultured, unpopular, and unstoppable.
- Any human efforts to make the kingdom of God majestic, powerful, or sophisticated are doomed to fail.
Questions to Consider
- How have you misunderstood and misappropriated the good news of God’s reign? How have you tried to manage or control it?
- Where have you seen God’s reign beginning to sprout, grow, or bear fruit?
- How do we unconsciously try to keep the kingdom of God separate from our daily life and activities?
- How have you recently been challenged to sow the seeds of the kingdom?